The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Illinois markets health insurance to young adults by advertising with The Onion

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CHICAGO - Trying to sell young adults on the idea of health insurance before an upcoming deadline, Illinois officials announced Monday they are launching an ad campaign with the satirical online newspaper The Onion.

Banner ads on The Onion website will depict a toy action figure with the words: "Man without health insurance is forced to sell action figures to pay medical bills." The ads say: "Get Covered. Don't sell your action figures."

The Onion has run humorous news articles about President Barack Obama's health law in the past. One headline read: "Nation recalls simpler time when health care system was broken beyond repair."

Ad campaigns in other states have wooed young adults with humour. A non-profit group in Colorado's "Brosurance" ads featured young men with red plastic cups and a beer keg.

But no other state government has promoted coverage through The Onion, said Onion CEO Steve Hannah. The ads will be targeted to website visitors who are Illinois residents, he said.

Jennifer Koehler, a state employee who is executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said nontraditional sources of news and entertainment are a strategic way to reach young, uninsured adults.

Healthy adults ages 26 to 34 are a crucial demographic to the health law's success. Insurers need their participation to offset the costs of covering older, sicker Americans. But so far only 15 per cent of the people who've enrolled in the new marketplace plans are in that target age group. The percentage is similar in Illinois, where a planned $33 million marketing campaign has included mostly traditional TV, radio and print advertising.

The Onion ads, which cost $150,000, are produced with Onion Labs, the creative services division of the satirical website. The Onion also will create a video, an editorial and a custom "news" section as the March 31 enrolment deadline nears.

"Get Covered Illinois understands their target demographic and is taking a creative approach to tailor a message to that audience that goes beyond traditional marketing," said Mike McAvoy, president of Onion Inc., in a press release announcing the campaign.

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AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson

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