MK 354 Spring 2010

April 26, 2010

blog 10: health insurance taken from breast cancer patients?

Filed under: blog #10, Uncategorized — marissagkelley @ 10:18 am

Recently, a significant amount of celebration and controversy has surrounded the passing of the new universal health care bill. But in an April 22 Reuters report, a new controversy has come to light. According to Reuters, WellPoint, the largest U.S. health insurer by enrollment, had targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with intent to cancel their policies. The process involved using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer, among other conditions.

In response to these allegations, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to the CEO of WellPoint saying, “I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.” Sebelius goes on to refer to WellPoint’s practices as “deplorable” and “unconscionable”.

So what did WellPoint have to say for itself? CEO Angela Braly claims that the Reuters report grossly misrepresented the company’s efforts to help patients with life threatening illnesses such as breast cancer. She claims that the company uses software to scan diagnostic codes for conditions that patients would likely have known about when they applied for insurance, but insisted it does not single out women with breast cancer. Whether or not this explanation is true, Reuters stood by their original story and WellPoint shares dropped .7 percent on Friday after the story was released.

In this case, the blurred line between the human condition and politics repulses me. Isn’t it true that a nation of people should be able to trust their government with, at the very least, their lives? I compare the insurance giant WellPoint to government because it is in a position of great power that has control over the lives of thousands of people. This position should not be taken lightly, and if WellPoint is responsible for using breast cancer against their customers, then it should be publicly punished.

Although the universal health insurance bill will render this argument unnecessary (the bill makes rescinding insurance illegal), as a matter of principle it is worth bringing WellPoint to justice. As a collective people, we have a responsibility to uphold certain principles that defend our basic rights. Therefore, as a people, we should hold WellPoint accountable for their actions.


April 12, 2010

blog 9 – the dangers of bullying

Filed under: blog #9 — marissagkelley @ 11:24 am

When my parents were in grade school, bullying on the playground was essentially a right of passage that everyone dealt with. For Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, bullying led to a gruesome suicide. In a story that has swept the nation, six teens, including four girls and two boys, are being charged in a bullying case that authorities claim led to the death of Irish transfer student Phoebe Prince.

Prince’s apparent offense, according to the court records: She had gone out with boys who also dated two of her bullies. Over the few weeks before her death, tormentors called Prince a “whore” and “Irish slut” and taunted her in the classroom, halls and outside of school. On the day that Prince hung herself in her parents’ apartment, she had been loudly berated in the library and had a can throw at her while walking home from school.

Anyone who has attended grade school, junior high or high school can understand the widespread presence of bullying. It has been a classic theme in American school systems, even represented in television shows and movies. It is clear that bullying is dangerous and can have deadly consequences…so why aren’t school administrators doing anything to stop it? At South Hadley High School, administrators claim that Prince “was apparently a very private person, she bore a lot without talking to friends or with parents or with anybody at school.” They blame Prince’s privacy for their lack of knowledge about the bullying, despite reporting two incidents witnessed by teachers in January.

At neighboring Chicopee High School, adult hall monitors patrol each corridor, in addition to an armed police officer and surveillance cameras. At the end of each academic year, a bullying questionnaire is sent out to parents to seek their opinion on the school’s anti-bullying policy. Whether their strict anti-bullying methods are responsible or not, Chicopee has remained untouched by tragedies like the death of Phoebe Prince.

Will Phoebe Prince become a martyr to teens all over the nation who wake up every morning in fear of bullies waiting at school? Should all schools adopt strict anti-bullying policies like Chicopee High School? The months to come in the trials of the six teen defendants will no doubt change the course of bullying in American schools. For the sake of Phoebe Prince’s family, and millions of other tormented teens, I hope that the judges and jurors can look past the young age of the defendants and understand the gravity of their actions.

April 5, 2010

Blog 8 – prom cancelled due to same-sex couple

Filed under: blog #8 — marissagkelley @ 1:03 pm

It’s that time of year again. Flowers are blooming, the sun is coming out, and thousands of girls across America are raiding the department stores to find the perfect prom dress.  It is a time full of excitement, making memories and young love. Not for Constance McMillen though. The 18 –year-old from Itawamba County in Mississippi recently sued her school over its policy banning same-sex prom dates.

After a controversial deliberation, the school decided to cancel its own public prom in favor of a privately-sponsored dance that would allow McMillen to attend, in full tuxedo, with her 16-year-old girlfriend. Itawamba officials said they felt not hosting the prom was the best decision “after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students.”

Let’s consider this for a moment. Education, safety, and well being? The statement makes it seem as if they are protecting their students from a dangerous criminal, when in fact, McMillen is a stellar student with a 3.8 grade point average and is well liked by her classmates.

Across the country, people have heard Constance’s story and are speaking up on her behalf. Earlier this week, students at a California school said that if McMillen could not attend her own prom, they would invite her to theirs. A federal judge ruled last week that the district’s actions violated McMillen’s constitutional rights, but he didn’t reinstate the school prom.

In my opinion, if you make these discriminatory policies a part of your school, you are actually educating your students to believe that discrimination is okay.  I understand that same sex couples are fighting for their right to love across the country. I believe that schools should be a place where this fight comes to a ceasefire. The school should act as a safe environment to support and encourage its students to be proud of who they are.

To quote the Beastie Boys, McMillen is simply fighting for her right to party…literally.  And I think I speak for a large majority when I say that I am fully supporting Team Constance.

March 28, 2010

blog 7 – sexting: harmless or illegal?

Filed under: blog #7 — marissagkelley @ 5:49 pm

In a small Pennsylvania town this past February, a 15 year-old girl who lives at home with her mother found herself facing criminal charges.  The offense? Sending nude pictures of herself to one of her male classmates. According to the Clearfield County District Court, this act counts as possessing and distributing child pornography. This case highlights a recent teenage phenomenon that has been gaining significant coverage in the press over the last couple years known as sexting.

Sexting is defined as the sending of sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones. A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project identified that 15 percent of teens who own cell phones have received these messages, and four percent have actually sent them. Across the country, lawmakers have been publicly charging teens for engaging in this behavior.

So my question is this: is it ethical to criminally charge teenagers for engaging in the practice of flirtation, as it exists in their cultural and technological context? Is it simply that the laws have not caught up to the technology? Is this an example of the government interfering in an issue that should be left between parents and schools?

The unfortunate fact in considering all of these questions is that sexting can have poor, and even tragic, consequences. In 2008, the story of a teenage girl named Jessica Logan swept the nation when she hanged herself after months of harassment surrounding a nude picture that she had sent in a text message to an ex-boyfriend.

With this information in mind, it goes without saying that there are several conflicting perspectives that surround sexting, its consequences and its potential punishments. However, one perspective that I agree with is this: there is not enough focus in the media on the teens’ opinions regarding this issue. Parents, school officials and psychologists are often interviewed, but little attention is paid to the actual subjects of the debate.

I think that the thoughts and feelings of teenagers on sexting are invaluable; after all, they have never known life without the technology that allows it. To teens today, texting sending text messages is what writing letters was to teens in the 1940s. A picture message today, is the equivalent of those teens writing a dirty letter. Therefore, should a 13-year-old be criminally charged for sending a picture of herself to her boyfriend, especially if it acts as an alternative to unsafe sex? Somewhere, there is a reporter out there who should be asking this question to the teens who do it.

March 22, 2010

stories – eHarmony

Filed under: blog #6 — Tags: , , , , — marissagkelley @ 12:21 pm

The final element of the Made to Stick SUCCESs model is stories. According to Chip and Dan Heath, “…a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care. And…the right stories make people act” (206). Stories provide a relatable connection that draws attention and empathy, while simultaneously leaving a concrete impression in people’s minds.

One successful example of this theory is the eHarmony advertising campaign. eHarmony offers an Internet dating service through which people can sign up, sign on, and meet their match…literally. eHarmony boasts an array of compatibility tools that give the consumer the best possible chance of meeting someone that they will connect with.

To market this service, the team at eHarmony created a full-fledged campaign based around one single concept: stories. It began with a series of television commercials, in which eHarmony interviewed couples that had met on the site and were now happily in a relationship. The idea caught on quickly, and became eHarmony’s major advertising theme. On YouTube, eHarmony posts video chats that they have conducted with happy eHarmony couples, and on Facebook, couples are invited to share stories of their own.

The campaign demonstrates that the eHarmony marketing strategy was spot on for its target audience. The company realized that that there is a large population of people in the world who are unlucky in love. Finding the perfect partner is a deeply emotional and personal part of someone’s life. eHarmony had to ask themselves, “how can we make the consumer believe that eHarmony is the best answer to their quest for love?”

Its answer involved capitalizing on what the Heath brothers refer to as “the un-passive audience”.  Universally, people are constantly imagining their ideal romantic match. This involves physical traits, personality, temperament, etc. To hear eHarmony couples talking about compatibility, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction in their partner capitalizes on existing emotions in the consumer. They begin to imagine themselves as the couples on TV: happily in a relationship with all of their worries and bad breakups behind them. Essentially, they act as the un-passive audience, relating their own lives to the eHarmony stories.

For eHarmony, the strategy worked. Their advertising campaign has made it a top competitor in the online dating service industry. By utilizing the stories of its most successful customers, the company convinces potential customers that they too can be happy and in love with just a few clicks of a mouse.

March 1, 2010

emotional – thank you mom.

Filed under: blog #5 — Tags: , , , , — marissagkelley @ 1:20 pm

This past month, the entire world turned its focus toward Vancouver, Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympic games. And what better platform for advertisers to make their impression than the equivalent of a worldwide Superbowl event? In the midst of a diverse television audience that is seeking entertainment by impressive feats of athleticism, how does a company like Proctor and Gamble make people care about mundane products like toothpaste and spray cleaner?

The approach that the company took fits the strategies cited in the chapter on emotion in Made to Stick.  The “Thank You Mom” commercial plays a sequence of powerful clips of Olympian moms cheering on their children as they compete. As inspirational music plays, the copy reads “Is there anything better than being a U.S. Olympian? Actually, there is. Being that Olympian’s mom. Thank you Mom. “

This campaign illustrates the old advertising strategy of selling the benefit of the benefit. Although P&G represents companies that sell everyday household necessities, it recognizes that paper towels and laundry detergent do not inspire an emotional reaction from their viewers. Instead, P&G sells the inspiring image of the loving mother: always there, rooting for her children and providing them with everything they need to succeed.  It’s selling the end result of a mom who has every P&G product that she needs to function during her busy day, so that she can focus on the things that really matter. With this highly effective ad comes the message: Moms, we are here to support you, so that you can focus on supporting your children.

Not only does this campaign illustrate selling the benefit of the benefit, it also appeals to self-interest. Everyone in the world has a mother, and knows the strength of a mother’s love. This commercial tugs at heartstrings by playing images we are all familiar with that express loving care and support. It invokes feelings of pride in its audience in the same way that the Don’t Mess With Texas campaign did.

By making an emotional appeal, Proctor & Gamble fulfilled its objective to position their brand as a trusted, dependable choice for all consumers. Essentially, the commercial used emotion to align the company with world-class Olympian athletes as a fellow champion.

February 22, 2010

credible: all state insurance

Filed under: blog #4 — Tags: , , — marissagkelley @ 12:54 pm

The fourth chapter of the Heath brothers’ book, Made to Stick, focuses on credibility, and breaks down the elements that make an idea credible. To illustrate some of their core concepts, I will use the All State Insurance campaign.

When consumers go shopping for something like insurance, it is not a purchase they take lightly. People value their lives, loved ones and possessions at a very high degree, and they are not going to be willing to take any risks in protecting them. Therefore, as a company that offers this service, it is imperative that it offers credibility. Much like Safexpress had to prove their credibility to the Bollywood film company, All State must prove its credibility in order to gain significant market share.

In one particular All State advertisement entitled “Tail Lights”, a long line of cars full of teenagers drives along an open road. Music plays and spokesman Dennis Haysbert states “Every year, six thousand teenagers go out for a drive…and never come back. Just talking to them can change that”. The camera zooms in on a young girl’s face through the window as she drives away into the darkness. The ad is promoting All States parent-teen driving contract.

There are two Made to Stick elements at play here. First, the Heath brothers state that using vivid, truthful details can boost internal credibility. In this sixty-second TV spot, there are multiple shots of teens in their cars, laughing with friends or playing with a soccer ball. The attention that is paid to these details makes the teens more familiar, so that when Haysbert releases his statement on the number of annual teen driving deaths, the knowledge hits like a bag of sand. The details make the spot memorable, and relate back to the core idea of the campaign, which is to promote All State insurance. This method also makes the idea of teen driving deaths more concrete.

This is also an example of the human scale principle. The Heath brothers believe that appealing to existing schemas in a consumers mind will generate a human context for the statistic. They state, “humanizing the statistic gives the argument a greater wallop” (145). Watching the line of cars full of teenagers drive away, knowing that they represent six thousand deaths, humanizes a bland statistic on paper. This makes the statistic much more powerful, and boosts All State’s credibility.

February 16, 2010

concrete: the red umbrella

Filed under: blog #3 — Tags: , , — marissagkelley @ 12:49 pm

According to Chip & Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, the stickiest concrete idea will function in the same way as a piece of Velcro. No messy, complex concepts…just hooks and holes. This involves the transformation of abstract concepts into concrete messages.

Take Travelers Insurance, for example. According to their very thorough fact sheet, Travelers is the third largest writer of commercial U.S. property casualty insurance. Their at-a-glance blurb reads, “Travelers offers a wide variety of insurance and surety products, as well as risk management services, to numerous types of businesses, organizations and individuals. Our products are distributed primarily through U.S. independent insurance agents and brokers.”

To me, a college student still covered under my parent’s insurance, this fact sheet reads like a foreign dictionary. It is not relevant to my needs, it is confusing, and it certainly does not stick like Velcro. My personal reaction to this fact sheet illustrates a problem that faces companies like Travelers: they offer intangible services that often require explanation and serious consideration before a purchase is made. In the words of the Heath brothers, they offer an abstract service. So how does a company like Traveler’s make their message more concrete?

First, Travelers developed a simple and meaningful core message:

We help people protect the things they care about.

Then, they launched their red umbrella campaign. The clever creative team at British ad agency Fallon London took a concrete object, a red umbrella, and used it as a symbol for the Travelers service.  The commercials flow as follows: a red umbrella suspended in mid air floats whimsically above the objects that people value the most: a house, a car, a new business, and most famously, a dog’s bone. In the dog bone commercial, the adorable pooch is plagued by the fear that his most prized possession, his bone, is unprotected. The dog will not rest until, finally, Travelers insurance saves his bone and the day.

Fallon London and Travelers managed to develop a memorable and simple solution to creating a more concrete service. The red umbrella is now synonymous with Travelers core message: protecting the things you love. The end result of their efforts is a brilliant campaign and a distinct brand image.

February 1, 2010

america runs on dunkin’

Filed under: blog #1 — marissagkelley @ 12:46 pm

­­Does this sound like your weekday morning?

You are lounging in a warm, well-decorated kitchen listening to birds chirp outside your window. Your hunky husband (or beautiful wife) flashes you their million-dollar smile. There may or may not be a happy, blond-haired youngster sitting quietly at the kitchen table coloring with crayons. In your hand is a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee. You breathe in deeply, without a care in the–

No, I don’t spend my mornings like a Folgers commercial either.

Realistically, most of my mornings are spent scrambling to get up and get out the door. My internal monologue is running at high speed, “gym, shower, eat breakfast, dress for work, get out the door, don’t be late!” Then the rest of the day is filled with to-do lists, homework, grocery shopping, cleaning, doing laundry, group meetings, etc. And that is just my perspective of a busy day. I know that millions of Americans have their personal version of my chaotic schedule.

Bottom line, as a culture, we are constantly on the go, looking to complete the next task on our to-do lists, succeed in our endeavors, and just get through the day. This observation of consumer behavior is exactly what Boston agency Hill Holliday considered when they created the “America Runs On Dunkin’” campaign.

Rather than position the daily cup of coffee as a relaxing escape to a busy day, Hill Holliday promoted Dunkin Donuts coffee as human fuel, used to help the everyday American succeed in their hectic life. As it turns out, the idea stuck. In fact, “America Runs on Dunkin” possesses all of the qualities of a simple, sticky idea that Chip and Dan Heath promote in their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. According to the Heath brothers SUCCESs model, a simple idea must fit a simple formula:

Simple = Core + Compact

In the case of “America Runs on Dunkin’”, Hill Holliday nailed the above formula. The campaign phrase is indeed compact, and the four visuals associated with the copy further strengthen its streamlined nature.

Hill Holliday also stripped away the layers of value of Dunkin Donuts into one core idea: Dunkin Donuts gets you through your busy day. Even though the franchise also boasts qualities of convenience, variety, and low-prices…Hill Holliday chose the core value of the product and used it to create a very successful campaign.

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