An alligator in Alligator? Sipping hot coffee in Hot Coffee? Guzzling a tall glass of ice water in Coldwater?
Not quite, but in the new Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi advertising campaign that will begin airing on television stations around the state on April 24, a heavy dose of humor has been incorporated into the message that BCBS is a Mississippi company, said Steve Walton, spokesperson for BCBS.
“A major point we are trying to get across in the campaign is that our corporate structure begins and ends in Mississippi,” said Walton. “We don’t report to any hierarchy outside of the state. The Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association, of which we are glad to be a part, is an association of independent companies.”
To create public awareness of the Mississippi-bred company, established more than 50 years ago, with a 1,000-employee payroll, the largest network of health care providers in the state, and processors of about 29,000 health care claims at $15 million daily, the BCBS team developed an offbeat ad campaign centered around five small towns with unusual names — Alligator, Coldwater, Hot Coffee, Pocahontas and Waveland.
“With these particular town names, we were able to develop ideas with a light-hearted approach that worked well,” Walton said. “In each town, we picked real Mississippians to film as part of the commercial.”
Developed by Jim Dollarhide of Dollarhide Film Inc. in Jackson, people that appear in the five spots were recruited by flyers and advertising. For instance, 10 people selected at casting auditions held in Pocahontas at J.C.’s General Store on March 12 were enticed by “your chance to be on television!”
“The commercials are still being developed, but most of the filming is complete,” Walton said. “It would be an injustice to describe (the commercials) because they looks so good on film that the pictures count. Working with Jim Dollarhide is a guarantee that things will go well. He’s an excellent director and his input will really make them enjoyable to watch.”
When Jim Dollarhide’s latest film, “Through Our Own Eyes,” a 20-minute video produced for the Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, was unveiled earlier this year at a luncheon featuring Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) as the keynote speaker, Lott jokingly commented that he had been upstaged. He also referred to the film as “the best.”
“For the past several years, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi has had a very polished, nationally prepared television campaign produced for the national association of BCBS,” said Dollarhide. “While it was very, very good, it prompted me to propose to BCBS of Mississippi that they do a similar campaign but make it ‘very Mississippi’ in nature, with real Mississippi people, rather than actors, at real Mississippi locations — all to create an unmistakable message for the television viewer that BCBS of Mississippi is a Mississippi company, serving Mississippians. And that no matter where you are in Mississippi, BCBS has you covered.”
Many health care spots talk about philosophies, plans and policies — complicated issues that viewers sometimes have trouble relating to in thirty seconds or less, Dollarhide said.
“So, we chose to deliver our message in a light-hearted way, featuring small Mississippi towns with unusual names,” he said. “If I had to compare the spots to something people would be familiar with, I’d say that they are closest to some of the national commercials for Saturn cars, featuring small town people who have purchased Saturns.”
Before narrowing down the list of towns and choosing actors from hundreds of hopefuls at five- and 10-minute auditions, folks in 40 towns throughout the state “welcomed us with open arms,” Dollarhide said. “So now, BCBS will have TV spots made with a Mississippi company, Mississippi film crew, featuring Mississippi towns – and best of all, real Mississippi people.”
BCBS “hometown” spots will run throughout the year; the marketing campaign may later be extended to include print advertising, Walton said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1018.