Covered California hires IPG trio Weber, Golin, Axis for enrollment push

The three-year contract has a budget of $2.5 million per year.

SACRAMENTO, CA: State health insurance marketplace Covered California has brought on an integrated Interpublic Group PR agency team of Weber Shandwick, Golin and the Axis Agency as its PR AOR. 

The IPG agency team will work with IW Group and Lagrant Communications on external comms strategy for Covered California.

The three-year contract has a budget of $2.5 million per year with an option to renew for three additional one-year periods, Amy Palmer, Covered California’s director of communications and PR, told PRWeek in March. The agencies were selected in June, following a three-stage RFP process. Firms picked for the final round made presentations in early May. 

"We chose to bring a best-in-class agency team together with folks who have the right skill sets from several IPG PR agencies, complemented by a couple other partners that we worked with before that brought more specialized audience expertise to round out the team," said Pam Jenkins, president of Weber’s global public affairs practice. "We felt that was a great way to bring the right people to be really client focused and to bring all the various expertise you need in a state as diverse as California."

Ogilvy was the incumbent on the account. The agency worked with Covered California on a four-year contract with an option to renew the pact for another year. However, the changing state of healthcare law prompted the state to put the review up for bid, Palmer told PRWeek in a previous interview.

Ogilvy, which was invited to re-bid for the work, no longer works with Covered California. The WPP firm declined to comment.

The IPG team will supply Covered California with digital and influencer work, event management and media relations assistance. The agencies will aid Covered California with external visibility, focusing on raising awareness of healthcare coverage options for state residents, promoting enrollment and coverage retention and highlighting the exchange model.

"The main purpose of the contract is to enroll people across the state in health insurance working through Covered California," said Jenkins. 

There are two new affordability initiatives in California: the restoration of the individual mandate and new state subsidies that could lead to hundreds of thousands of people gaining coverage with lower premiums and more financial help. 

"Under Covered California’s leadership, the state expanded the subsidies so that many middle-income individuals and families who make $50,000 to $150,000 are eligible for help for the first time," said Jenkins. "It’s important for us to reach Californians who qualify for financial assistance."

The agencies are setting up earned media interviews, working with California influencers, creating content for social and digital media channels and activities in all media markets in the state, including a partnership between Covered California and well-known athletes. 

There will be live events at four locations across the state where influencers will help to spread the word that now is the time to sign up for health coverage through Covered California. The first event is scheduled for November 4 in Los Angeles. 

The agencies are also conducting media relations for general news and specialized media that reach younger and diverse audience segments. 

The account lead is Jennifer Baker-Asiddao, executive director at Golin in Los Angeles. Jenkins is executive sponsor on the account, with overarching responsibility for it.

For 2019 coverage, Covered California reported a 7.5% increase in healthcare plan renewals compared with the previous year, although 23.7% fewer consumers signed up for new coverage. Covered California executive director Peter Lee said the removal of the federal individual mandate penalty was the reason that fewer people signed up.

Campbell Ewald handles marketing for Covered California.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that open enrollment already started and enrollment events starts next week.

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