Our view: Anger over MNsure Paul Bunyan ads misplacedFolks in Bemidji went a little ax-wielding wild last week when their lovable ax-wielding community mascot, Paul Bunyan, was unveiled as the bumbling, butt-of-the-joke centerpiece of an advertising campaign for MNsure, the online, sign-up-for-insurance site in Minnesota for the federal Affordable Care Act.
Folks in Bemidji went a little ax-wielding wild last week when their lovable ax-wielding community mascot, Paul Bunyan, was unveiled as the bumbling, butt-of-the-joke centerpiece of an advertising campaign for MNsure, the online, sign-up-for-insurance site in Minnesota for the federal Affordable Care Act.
There’s Paul Bunyan water-skiing into a tree, Paul Bunyan flying off a treadmill into a wall and Paul Bunyan sledding into a tree. Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance,” goes the catchy catch phrase at the end.
“Not impressed,” Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht tweeted.
“To have him be a doofus, it doesn’t make sense,” she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“Paul Bunyan is a Minnesota icon and should not be used as an actor,” chimed in state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, in an op-ed she sent around the state, including to the News Tribune.
“He has been made into a punch line,” she wrote, calling the campaign and its ads “offensive,” “inappropriate” and “wrong.”
Whether you championed or fought bitterly against it, the president’s health-care overhaul is reality. It’s kicking in. And there’s a definite need to make the best of what some predict will be a taxing and expensive, bad situation. There’s a definite need to educate Minnesotans about MNsure and how to sign up for care. MNsure’s Paul Bunyan ads are light-hearted, humorous, memorable and very Minnesotan, much like the Minnesota Lottery ads or Minnesota State Fair ads. They’re effectively doing the job.
If anyone wants to get mad they can balk at the advertising campaign’s hefty price tag: anywhere from $9 million, according to numerous news reports, to $22 million, according to Sen. Ruud. Advertising and marketing campaigns aren’t cheap. But can taxpayers be assured they’re getting good value here? Multimillions is a whole lot of our tax dollars, no matter what the specific number.
Plenty of Minnesotans already aren’t so sure. In a Pioneer Press online poll last week, nearly 80 percent of 1,228 respondents said even $9 million was too much. While not scientific, the poll was quite telling.
Anyone skeptical of the spending couldn’t have felt much better finding out that MNsure officials tried to exploit “a gap in the law” (MNsure spokesman John Reich’s words in a Star Tribune article) to keep secret details of their marketing campaign. The state Department of Administration rightly denied a July 8 MNsure request to keep public information about the public spending of public money out of the public eye. As a result of the ruling, the marketing data will become public Sept. 9.
To their credit, Bemidji officials changed their tune about the way their statue is being depicted.
“Ultimately, we’re flattered,” chamber President Lori Paris later acknowledged.
“We’ve decided to make lemonade out of lemons,” Mayor Albrecht said, also later, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.
Cynics, critics of the Affordable Care Act and others can do likewise. But none of us should stop keeping a close eye on how our tax dollars are being spent.