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Paul, Babe ads rankle Bemidji leaders

  • Associated Press
  • August 19, 2013 - 3:39 PM

BEMIDJI, Minn. — The creative people promoting Minnesota's new health care exchange turned to humorous ads featuring Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, taking some pratfalls.

But the ads aren't going over so well in northern Minnesota, where some city leaders in Bemidji see them as making fun of a treasured icon.

"I think they're offensive, some of them, and I think they're inappropriate," Mayor Rita Albrecht told The Bemidji Pioneer (http://bit.ly/16XgTgF) Monday of some of the images included in the marketing campaign's unveiling. "And I would prefer some of them not be used."

The MNsure ads feature Bemidji's Paul Bunyan statue getting into dilemmas that would require the legendary giant lumberjack to visit a hospital, such as a water skiing accident and woodpeckers attacking his head. The ads are a light-hearted attempt to build awareness of the health exchange, which will allow Minnesotans to compare insurance plans side-by-side in an online marketplace.

"Paul has been our icon for so many years that you think of that particular Paul, you think of Bemidji," said Lori Paris, the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce president. "But now when you see him running into a tree and falling over, it just looks foolish I think."

The state is contracting with BBDO Proximity Minneapolis for the $9 million marketing campaign titled "Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Reasons to Get Health Insurance."

Leslie Sipprell, a senior vice president at BBDO Proximity, said Monday the ads "certainly were not meant to poke fun at" Paul and Babe.

"We knew we wanted it to be very ownable to Minnesota," Sipprell said of the ad campaign. "And (we) started thinking about what's very iconic to the state and Paul and Babe certainly quickly came to mind as icons that people can relate to and take great pride in as part of Minnesota heritage."

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