CMS taps Ogilvy for $1.4 million campaign

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded a $1.4-million contract to Ogilvy PR for a new campaign to promote awareness of information and services available to adults caring for the elderly.

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded a $1.4-million contract to Ogilvy PR for a new campaign to promote awareness of information and services available to adults caring for the elderly.

Ogilvy managed a smaller outreach effort directed at adult caregivers in 2004, but this new initiative, to launch in late July, represents the first major effort by a government agency to reach out directly to the tens of millions of Americans who support aging parents, friends, or neighbors, according to CMS director of media relations Jeff Nelligan.

“These caregivers play a pretty big role in the lives of our beneficiaries,” Nelligan said. “The idea is to open the conversation and build some lasting links between our agency and their family members.”

Ogilvy and CMS have not yet finished plotting out the complete PR strategy, but the initiative will focus on providing and promoting a central online source for information. It will rely on content from a number of current CMS Web sites, including popular sites that compare hospitals, senior citizen facilities, and government drug plans.

Efforts promoting the initiative will include press events and other outreach to traditional and online media, the use of online social networking sites, and some advertising. Traditional grassroots communications by partners, such as events held at senior centers, however, lies at the heart of the initiative's success.

A “working group” of local community organizations and national organizations including the AARP and the National Family Caregivers Association provided advice and research to the CMS on how to best communicate with adult caregivers. Many of these groups are expected to become partners in the initiative and to use their own communications channels to promote it to their members and the public, Nelligan said.

“The partners in the community provide the real help,” Nelligan said. “We have no illusions that 100% of caregivers or users of our services are surfing the Web. [But often] it's the senior center or the friend or family member that will do the logging on and take the senior through the Web site. Seniors are not exactly pulling up a chair and logging on, but they are often guided through the sites by others.”

Messaging for the campaign will be based on previous and future research sponsored by CMS and partners of the working group. A summit of partners will be held late this year -- date and location to be determined -- to discuss adult caregiver issues and effective means of reaching this audience.

The initiative also aims to help caregivers feel part of a community of sorts, said Tom Beall, MD of Ogilvy's social marketing practice.

“Our belief is that there are huge numbers of people who perform this function, but don't label themselves as ‘caregivers,'” Beall said. “One thing we want to do with this campaign is recognize the value of what they're doing. Research tells us that caregivers, when they describe their experiences, often say they feel alone, burdened, and not necessarily aware that there a lot of ways to get help.”

CMS issued an RFP earlier this year for the initiative to Ketchum, Ogilvy, Porter Novelli, and Weber Shandwick -- the four agencies selected in August 2006 under an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for the exclusive right to bid on major CMS communications work through 2011.

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