Ketchum supports DDB on NY health exchange efforts

ALBANY, NY: New York's Health Benefit Exchange has hired Ketchum to provide PR services for the organization as it tries to convince young, healthy consumers to sign up for insurance plans.

ALBANY, NY: New York's Health Benefit Exchange has hired Ketchum to provide PR services for the organization as it tries to convince young, healthy consumers to sign up for insurance plans.

The Omnicom Group firm is serving as a subcontractor to sister advertising agency DDB on the contract, which will run through December 2014. Ketchum is also assisting with social media planning, according to Bill Schwarz, director of public affairs for the New York State Department of Health. DDB's contract is worth $40.1 million, but Schwarz was unable to say how much of that will go to PR.

The exchange was mandated by the Affordable Care Act as a place where consumers can compare and buy insurance.

Last month, the Illinois Department of Insurance awarded FleishmanHillard a one-year contract worth up to $35 million to implement a marketing strategy to promote its health insurance marketplace.

One key message the marketplace is focusing on is that it will be hassle-free to sign up for quality plans, Schwarz said.

DDB had been working on paid media efforts for the exchange for several months before Ketchum was brought on in the past few weeks.

“PR is vital,” Schwarz said. “It adds credibility in a way paid methods don't when you are able to get the third-party endorsement that comes from when reporters write a story. It's through the media that [the exchange] will be able to put a face on the story.”

Social media is also expected to move the needle among “young invincibles,” a term for young adults with no health ailments. The exchange hopes that as members of this group sign up for plans, they will share their stories through social networks.

“Peer-to-peer is very powerful,” Schwarz said.

The state estimates that nearly 2.7 million New Yorkers under age 65 do not have health insurance. Its goal is to get more than 1 million, consisting of 615,000 individuals and 450,000 small-business employees, to sign up for coverage via the marketplace.

A Ketchum representative deferred comment on the account to the client.

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