Am I the Only One Who Thinks It’s Weird to Use Alcoholism as a Marketing Tool to Sell Health Insurance?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Because that’s just what ProgressNow Colorado and Colorado Consumer Health Initiative did for Connect for Health Colorado, an ObamaCare state exchange that’s far below projection for private health insurance signups. First the pictures, which I swear, I double dog swear, are not from The Onion (and I’m not the only whose mind was boggled; Colorado Planned Parenthood thought the ads were a right-wing parody).





I’m late to the party on this story, and so I missed a minor moral panic, starting on the right, and then moving mainstream, as moral panics will do, that the ads showed that young people, and especially — here, get your pearls, because I know you’ll want to clutch them — young women were having sex. But since everything else in this earthly rational maximizer’s paradise of ours is sold with sex, why not health insurance? I mean, selling sex certainly works for our famously free press, as the story goes. So the whole thing devolved into pointless tribal wrangling and taunting. So comfortable for “both” sides! Move along, people, move along. There’s no story here.

Anyhow, the ads that caught my eye were the ones above: Young people demonstrating the health benefits of getting buzzed, blasted, destroyed, fried, hammered, hooched up, loaded, polluted, sh*t-faced, smashed, wasted, and wrecked; please forgive me if I have omitted the latest argot. And since I live in a college town, when I see kegs, beer bongs, shot glasses, and those fershuggeneh red plastic cups, what I think of is incidents like this:

On Saturday night, numerous residents in and around called police to complain about noise, fights, and fireworks. Police arrived to find a “solid wall” of about 300 people. …

After the officers warned the party goers that they had two minutes to start leaving or arrests would be made, people started throwing bottles at the police officers. …

The rowdy crowd left a remarkable path of destruction. Lajoie said siding had been ripped off buildings, graffiti sprayed in various places, emergency lighting ripped down, bicycles damaged, furniture spread all over the place and overturned, a car roof collapsed, and a car window smashed. …

In the aftermath, there was trash everywhere, “like I’ve never seen before,” Lajoie said.

All this took place one night after police had broken up a similar gathering of about 150 people in the same place.

The best part:

Attendees, many of whom recorded the scene with their smartphones and later posted videos and pictures to social media websites, urged people to jump from or skateboard off the entryway roof. People shouted, “Do it, do it,” as the jumpers weighed whether to take the leap.

Fortunately, ProgressNow Colorado had the good sense not to make a “Got Insurance?” ad with some drunken, doomed youth about to jump off a roof to the cheering crowd below, but you see what I mean.

And lest it be said that I’m in full “Hey! You kids get offa my lawn!” Gramps mode, alcoholism is a terrible health problem (as I know from direct personal experience, as does a fellow blogger who just drove a relative off to rehab). Here is a handy tabulation of alcohol-related student deaths; funeral expenses are not, alas, an Essential Health Benefit. More from Science in The Public Interest:

According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC),

  • 19% of college students ages 18–24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence
  • 5% of these students sought treatment for alcohol problems in the year prior to the survey, and
  • 3% of these students thought they should seek help but did not.

Alcoholism treatment programs are available but often are not accessible to a broad audience. The heaviest drinkers are the least likely to seek treatment, yet experience or are responsible for the most alcohol-related problems on campus.16 According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, nearly 1 in 3 college students (3 in 5 frequent binge drinkers) meet the criteria for alcohol abuse while 1 in 17 (1 in 5 frequent binge drinkers) qualify for alcohol dependence.

With health effects including the following:

According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC),

  • 19% of college students ages 18–24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence
  • 5% of these students sought treatment for alcohol problems in the year prior to the survey, and
  • 3% of these students thought they should seek help but did not.

Alcoholism treatment programs are available but often are not accessible to a broad audience. The heaviest drinkers are the least likely to seek treatment, yet experience or are responsible for the most alcohol-related problems on campus.16 According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, nearly 1 in 3 college students (3 in 5 frequent binge drinkers) meet the criteria for alcohol abuse while 1 in 17 (1 in 5 frequent binge drinkers) qualify for alcohol dependence.

That’s a ton of human suffering. So why is a “progressive” organization like ProgressNow making alcoholism “edgy”?

More to the point, why does a “White House Senior Communications Advisor”?

So, why?

* * *

Leaving aside the fact that “progressive” organizations get walking around money (a.k.a. “grants”) for running ObamaCare marketing campaigns, there’s one obvious and fundamental answer:

ObamaCare has to be marketed.

ObamaCare has to be marketed. Like any other profit-making yet defective product, it doesn’t sell itself. Do you see Social Security being marketed? No. Bad brochures don’t count! Medicare? Except for the bits the privatizing neo-liberal weasels got to, again no. Medicaid? No. Those programs sell themselves, so they don’t need marketers to sell them by glorifying alcoholism, or anything else. The entire enterprise is of no redeeming social importance whatever.

So the real story is that the tiny little grant that funded ProgressNow’s reprehensible foray into marketing weaseldom and alcoholism advocacy is a tiny little sip from the gusher of rental extraction that is ObamaCare; a few small coins in the trillion dollars we would have saved by now, had single payer been passed in 2009, taken a year to implement (like Medicare did), and then covered every single American for two solid years.

ProgressNow’s “edgy” series is a complete and utter waste of time and money that hurts people by encouraging them to behave in unhealthy ways which damage themselves and others, and they have especially damaged the “young invincibles” that they target, on actuarial grounds. Just appalling. Thanks, “progressives”!

NOTE * You can sense the CMS beginning to rot from cognitive capture by the private health insurance industry as, yes, they begin to attempt to market for themselves, with hideous results.

NOTE To put this another way, would it make any sense, any kind of sense at all, for ProgressWev to have run a “Got Insurance” series featuring smokers? Of course not. Well, given the health problems with alcohol shown above, why does it make any more sense to run a series featuring drinkers?

Oh, and don’t get me started on “doyougotinsurance.” Sheesh.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. fairleft

    These ads are about heavy drinking at college parties, and so they aren’t “using alcoholism.” Yes, they’re weird in our media/culture, but that’s why I like them. The subtext is that being a college student who likes to get wasted once in awhile, or most weekends, is socially acceptable, it’s ‘okay’. Let’s not equate heavy drinking once in a while with ‘alcoholism’. We should keep its meaning clear and unexpanded, despite the desires of the ‘alcoholism treatment’ industry.

    1. Ben Johannson

      Those ads are not only the product of someone completely out of touch but they aren’t even weird. Whomever came up with those is the sort who looks around in the movie theater so they know when to laugh at the joke.

    2. human

      So…this is an activity condoned by this “healthcare” concerned administration?

      Don’t get me started on the extent of capture, capitulation and willful selling out.

      1. Sammy Maudlin

        It appears as though virtually no one involved with promoting the ACA is particularly concerned about the “health” of the citizenry. If they were, you’d think that kegstands would be a discouraged activity.

        Instead, the message is: “no worries people, keep acting the fool, we got your back!”

        Wait, maybe that’s just the edgy, hip tagline they need!

    3. Sammy Maudlin

      Okay, so perhaps “alcoholism” isn’t exactly what’s being represented in those ads. However, excessive drinking certainly is. According to the CDC, excessive drinking cost the U.S. approximately 25 billion dollars in health care costs in 2006.

      Regardless of whether the people in the ads eventually turn into full blown alcoholics or simply end up in the emergency room after falling off the keg, the point is that it’s ridiculous a purported “health care” initiative would be promoted by glorifying, or at least validating, such demonstrably unhealthy and costly behavior.

    4. Dromaius

      They are showing a level of drinking that can and has been associated with hospitalization or death. Being offended by this isn’t about being a prude. It’s about having some common decency. Normally, ads like this are associated with statements about what NOT to do.

      Of course a White House that would steal money from food stamp funding for a “health” initiative would have no problem with this.

    5. JerseyJeffersonian

      I assume that it has somehow escaped your notice that binge drinking, arguably at least a precursor if not a form of alcoholism, can be incredibly dangerous: 1) In the form of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal to the one bingeing; 2) In the form of alcohol-driven bad judgment, which can be trouble not only for the drinker, but for those around them when the drinker’s bad ideas imperil the safety and even the lives of others. Oh, and then there are the young women who get drunk on their ass who get victimized by predators, who find uses for those asses. Good idea, bad idea?

      So, okay, if the binge drinking was overseen by a designated non-drinker to assure the safety of the drinker(s) and those around them, an occasional blow-out might be acceptable behavior. But that’s not how it usually goes down, does it?

    1. Sammy Maudlin

      True, unless the “one on the other side” is Ronnie James Dio. That always struck me as a marriage of equals.

  2. Skeptic

    “Alcoholism treatment programs are available but often are not accessible to a broad audience.”

    The idea that you just “treat” alcoholism like a bad rash and it goes away is mistaken. The success rate for treatment is not good. And, like a lot of Medicine today, some of the treatments are suspect and just another Cash Cow for the corrupted medical industry. It is more profitable for the Recovery Industry to have alcoholics go in and out of treatment ringing the cash register each time. Bit of a conflict of interest.

    The fact that in the article: “19% of college students ages 18–24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence” indicates to me an epidemic of addiction. Where are the alarms from the Center For Disease Control on this one?

    1. Banger

      Where are the alarms? There are no alarms because there is no need for them. This demographic is able to live and act in a “liberated way” for a few years of life. In order to explore repressed areas of their personalities they need something to help them explore, i.e, alcohol and other substances. After the college period the young people settle down to more episodic drinking as they put their noses to the grindstone that is American capitalism as they learn to develop the skills to become the unimaginative drones that the system requires, as George Carlin said

      just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place.

      I wanted to put the full comment there to show you how smart Carlin was and why we still need to listen to him. He understood from his vantage point what was happening in the world which is what the whole hipster movement was about–and he hung out on the street and he hung with the big-shots so he knew what he was talking about.

      Young people know, at an instinctual level what the score is and act accordingly. You’re not going to find out who you are nor express the playful, high-spirited part of your personality any other way than to “fight for your right to paaaarty” as the Beasty Boys used to sing.

      If the “normal” world rewarded homo-ludens instead of homo-boring a little more I don’t think the stupid and destructive aspect of college drunkeness would be such a problem.

      1. Sammy Maudlin

        The issue isn’t that having an advertisement displaying young people having a good time (perhaps) overindulging is per se bad. It happens, and often good times result. Using such images to promote a beer brand, a sporting event, or Alka Seltzer could be appropriate.

        However, the idiotic part is using such images to promote a “health care” initiative. You can’t argue with a straight face that binge drinking is healthy or health cost-effective. Encouraging a behavior that directly leads to increased health care costs makes no sense when one of the ACA’s primary goals is to reduce such costs.

          1. Sammy Maudlin

            It’s obviously not about “health care.” Where’s dollar one towards nutrition education? Subsidies for organic farming? Tax breaks towards gym membership and/or the purchase of exercise equipment? Why are health savings accounts being gutted?

            Nope, it’s about creating a captive market for the health insurance companies consisting of every American citizen. You don’t buy health insurance, there will be tax consequences courtesy of your federal government. Currently, those consequences are minimal. However, how long will it be before ACA “deadbeats” (who aren’t paying their “shared responsibility” and costing the rest of us!) are in the crosshairs of the government and a media campaign is launched to repeal the ban on criminal liability for non-compliance?

            If I were more cynical, it might look like a protection racket to me.

      2. anon y'mouse

        conflate senseless Bacchanalia with inner-exploration?

        it might all be harmless fun. I doubt that they’re learning much, though.

        perhaps they’re learning how much can be consumed before you’re non-functional for work the next morning.

        learning how to puke better was a real skill I could add on my C.V.

    2. Sammy Maudlin

      Where are the alarm bells from the CDC? Here’s one from July:

      Here’s the “Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking” which is currently linked on the CDC fact sheet page for binge drinking (here: which discusses the problematic nature of binge drinking on college campuses:

      Maybe ProgressNow can help the CDC and the Surgeon General come up with a hip, edgy ad campaign to draw more attention to their concerns in this area.

  3. DakotabornKansan

    Obamacare has to be marketed.

    “We were really focused on getting the word out. We were trying to connect with young adults, and we thought, ‘What are some of the things that might connect with college age folks [there they go again, referring to the faceless, gullible masses who don’t know what’s good for them until someone on high tells them]?’ We wanted to come up with a campaign that would attract attention and inject a bit of humor, and try to approach educating people about health insurance a little bit differently. It was really just brainstorming, ‘OK, what are some of those risky activities we could work with that would tie it all together?’” – Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, one of the groups responsible for the got insurance?” ads

    So promote binge drinking – “Brosurance,” “Keg ER,” “Get Your Shots” – so long as they have Obamacare?

    More failed village idiots!!!

    One wonders if those responsible for this “brainstorm” were themselves at one time binge drinkers with already low critical thinking skills.

    Drinking and (Critical) Thinking: “Students who binge drank over their four years in college had “significantly lower” critical thinking skills upon graduating than did those who didn’t binge drink. But that was true only for students who enrolled with already comparatively low critical thinking ability.

    90% of the alcohol consumed in the United States by underage drinkers (under 21) is in the form of binge drinks. Binge drinking greatly increases one’s chances of both short term and long term health problems, including injuries due to accidents while intoxicated, drunk driving collisions [those who binge drink are 14 times more likely to drink and drive than those who don’t binge drink], fatal violence, suicide, drowning, acute alcohol poisoning, asphyxiation (choking to death) on vomit while passed out, sexually transmitted diseases, accidental pregnancy, etc. Binge drinking causes billions of dollars in damage to the economy each year from lost productivity, added healthcare costs [see Obamacare], and police and criminal justice costs.

    State-sanctioned, Obamacare marketed, corporate sponsored endorsement for young people to destroy themselves and their futures … “marketing geniuses”

    “In business, standards establish the rules of the game, creating path dependencies as investments are made and corresponding designs are set in stone and plastic. Inferior standards can prevail due to smart marketing or industry collusion.” – Evgeny Morozov

  4. Clive

    Can I see the “after” photos of the expressions on the kids faces when they get billed for the deductible on their crappy “Bronze” plans ?

    1. Jim Haygood

      How they gonna pay deductibles when they’ve got student loan payments to make?

      It don’t compute …

  5. ambrit

    Wait just a minute! Those don’t look much like the real college students I work alongside at the DUIY Boxxstore.
    Those images of “university students” are marketing ploys in and of themselves.
    The entire Heritagecare debacle would be really funny if it wasn’t producing so much pain and woe. (And will probably produce a rash of angry mobs with torches and pitchforks. [How about a shot of the Frankenstein Monster on the burning Windmill at the end of “Frankenstein” with the ad caption, “Thanks Obamacare!”])

    1. Code Name D

      I think it’s because federal law prohibits using minors (under 21) for bear and alcohol ads. You need to use subjects who don’t need to be cardded at the door.

  6. taunger

    Soc. Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not effectively marketed, but I disagree with the assumption that is because they dont need to be. As someone in MA that is poor, I’ve been getting health insurance subsidies since my wife got pregnant. Many of my peers are eligible; do you think they know that? Do you think every person eligible for CHIP and Medicaid knows and is enrolled? Social security and medicare are different, but to assume an effective marketing campaign for social services provided by the state isn’t needed demonstrates some distance from the problems.

    1. anon y'mouse

      you view these services as in need of marketing because those who are eligible don’t use them. I see this as deliberate, along with the whole campaign of “blame the moochers.”

      they won’t advertise these services because they do NOT WANT people who are eligible to be using them. the truth then might come out about how poor so many people are in this country, and how gov’t services actually do help the poor. you think that attitude is what is wanted?

      having been on a few of these for these past couple of years, I can tell you that you as the individual have to go seeking them out. in other words, you have to admit to yourself that you are not surviving as you are. that is a big leap that our society wants to prevent you from taking, because it is viewed as ‘fostering dependent attitudes’ rather than dealing with a crappy economy, musical-chairs employment, and rising costs of everything plus social collapse and just general misfortune (in our case, a car accident knocking out the main wage-earner).

  7. Tom Stone

    I have lost friends and relatives to Alcoholism, one died in a particularly horrific manner earlier this year. Two people I care about are struggling with this disease right now. These fools should have focused their ads on the horrors of psoriasis if they wanted to get the attention of young people, a bad complexion scares most of them a lot more than death does.

  8. tew

    The success of these ads will be measured by whether they work. Do they get the target audience to buy the product?

    The rest of this post is just moralizing, a humorless puratanism, a display of today’s ultrasenstive culture of being offended.

    1. human

      So…legislation that mandates action of every citizen and turns over some 16% of GDP to the insurance sector is not amiss in not displaying a moral component?

    2. JerseyJeffersonian

      Ah, so playing on the susceptibilities of a target audience is A-OK. Gotcha. Even if it results in the dubious achievement of feeding that audience into the ravening maw of rentier capitalism in perpetuity. All righty, then.

      In the world of the amoral hipster, I guess that’s just fine. But what if one’s motivation was to stay the unwary from self-destructive behaviors? Maybe that underlies the dreaded moralizing about binge drinking, too. Adolescents and young adults are not known for impulse control. They are pliable to social pressure. Sometimes, they have limited capacity to conceive of consequences, since personal immortality is their working paradigm. Should all of us fuddy-duddies just shut up if we see some potential pitfalls with these behaviors and outlooks, or is it defensible that we speak up if we are motivated by a concern for the well-being of a vulnerable population? You wouldn’t allow a toddler to walk out onto a busy road. So why would you let reckless behavior by adolescents or young adults pass without at least a cautionary word?

      I guess in the world of the savvy, we are not our brother’s keeper. I can’t get reconciled to that world.

  9. Eric377

    They have a target audience and you’re probably not in it. They may prove ineffective but that remains to be seen (and probably disputed as is frequently the case with marketing campaigns). I wouldn’t look for deeper messages in them.

  10. hpschd

    “Alcoholism treatment programs are available but often are not accessible to a broad audience.”

    No mention of Alcoholics Anonymous so far? It’s free and it’s everywhere.

    One of the main criticisms of AA is the ‘religious/god’ content. There are now many agnostic and atheist AA groups, and many versions of ‘The Twelve Steps’.

    Sometimes they are harder to find. My group in Toronto (“Beyond Belief”) is a most interesting bunch of people.

    1. Code Name D

      Because AA is a support group – not a treatment center! It doesn’t employ medically trained personnel; it can not make clinical diagnoses or issue prescriptions. It doesn’t provide evidence based treatment and dose not engage in research on the subject.

    1. AbyNormal

      dangit dip…im tryin not ta laff!

      the group targeted is exactly the group they fear will opt out of the pyramid scheme! wait till the Hilton’s & Lohan’s come out with the ‘after hours’ infomercials. better yet…justin bieber bonds for bamacare. make mine jello shots pleazzz

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’m not certain it is targeted at the young invincible group anymore after reading the comments about how its okay to binge drink. The unhealthy skeptical side of me (my more skepticism has a different take) thinks its meant to blame young people for the problems with ACA.

        These drunks who are out having a good time instead of being responsible are at fault, not policy makers and the Obots who said great ACA would be when it finally got rolling. This is Dick Durbin’s fault. He isn’t doing keg stands. Its your neighbor’s fault who probably don’t have insurance. Obama like conservatism can not fail but can only be failed.

    2. craazyboy

      Where I draw the line is vodka enemas.

      But at least they didn’t show us pics of some college dude doing that.

  11. NotTimothyGeithner

    I think this appeals to shallow people who come up with the idea in a group think environment. I don’t think Obama and his followers tolerate alternative ideas, and secondly, despite the obvious problems with alcoholism in our society, these people (the Obot type) are so arrogant and lazy that they don’t question their ideas. They are more or less cultists. This is the kind of thing some rinky dink church comes up with to make the Bible seem hip for the kids. It just occurred to me, but these ads are almost indistinguishable from the tripe put out by Christian music brands. I’m almost positive Kirk Cameron is going to jump out and tell me how eating bananas is healthy and proves Darwin is wrong (search for this video if you have never seen it; possibly not safe for work if you have a dirty mind or aren’t a complete idiot).

    The result is this kind of ad. I think Obama people see themselves as both hip and smart, so these ads will make people see how cool they are and fool people at the same time.

    The Obots also believe only stupid people don’t like Obama hence the attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The Obots themselves don’t understand ACA which means they can only focus on a few issues such as staying on parents’ insurance until one turns 26, and as a last point, I think these ads aren’t meant to appeal for ACA to the populace but to reinforce the Obots’ assessments of themselves.

    1. Alexa

      Hey, NTG, don’t care for the ACA, at all. Would like to see it repealed and replaced with MFA.

      “I think this appeals to shallow people . . .”

      Bear in mind, an ad first has to get the target audience’s attention.

      And it’s hard to deny that these ads are “eye-catching.”

      Coupled with the fact that “critical thinking” is a scarcity today, increasingly this type of mindless pablum passes for “serious conversation.”

      [Not that I like it.]

      And if you think that I’m kidding–just watch C-Span’s “Washington Journal” [call-in program] for a week!


    1. JTFaraday

      OMG, he’s a douche!

      These ads may work more in the service of public health than people think.

      Also, that’s not a typo. That’s part of the whole doyougotinsurance dot com thingie.

    2. savedbyirony

      The bishops are going to love that one.
      These ads are so offensive to our young adults; and what exactly is the carrot being used here? That you can drink MORE if you sign up for the ACA! Good thing Ocare is about promoting good health -not just making a buck and trying desperately for a political victory.

  12. Elliot

    This ad campaign will piss off a lot of colleges struggling to deal with drinking on campus, struggling to deglamorize drunkenness. One of my alma maters has an on-going campaign of its own to re-educate, revise the thinking of its students away from the drinking that has killed many students. Seeing drinking glossied and glamorized and used by a president young people admire will make those college and university administrators sick to their stomachs.

  13. anon y'mouse

    one question I usually ask myself is:

    if it -needs- marketing, do you need it?

    usually the answer is “no”.

    by the way, you reiterated a paragraph from above after your line about the health effects of alcoholism.

    too many alcoholics in my family. I like a buzzed feeling, but rarely drink anything because of this. gramps died from the toxic alcohol-cigarette combo giving him brain cancer. no thank you!

    1. Sammy Maudlin

      Exactly. You what needs marketing? A ton of it? Alcohol.

      My wife used to work for the marketing department of a major American brewer. The saying around the company was “we aren’t a beer company with a marketing department, we are a marketing company that sells beer.” The size of the company, and of the industry as a whole, would probably be a lot smaller without the constant flooding of our senses with advertisements for their products.

  14. Min

    When I was growing up the ads would have shown something like wasted college kids getting into a horrible auto accident and ending up in the hospital in traction. Got insurance? Indeed.

    Somehow I think that these ads will be more effective in getting young people enrolled in health insurance.

  15. tongorad

    Why are so many Americans so puritanical about drinking? This tendency really becomes apparent when you use your passport.

    All too often, simply enjoying alcohol is equated with alcoholism and drunkenness in this country.

    Enough with the looking down at noses and finger wagging at one of the few remaining working class pleasures.

    “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” – OW

    1. Butch In Waukegan

      I don’t classify the comments on this post as puritanical, and I don’t think this campaign depicts an innocent this-buds-for-you appeal.

      Also, the behaviors illustrated in the ads are definitely not “working class”, what with the the skis, kegger, and whiteness.

      1. Sammy Maudlin

        Oh, c’mon Butch. Like you know what “working class” looks like in Waukegan. You’ve got to travel all the way to Winthrop Harbor to see that, methinks.

        Have some Quonset for me tonight wouldya?

        1. Butch In Waukegan

          Hey Sammy, Quonset on Fridays. Send you slice?

          I guess I’ll have to rethink that working class Waukegan thing — just where are the 3 or 4 pickups on my block going when they leave between 5 and 6 am each morning?

          1. Sammy Maudlin

            Just kidding, Butch. Victory Memorial Hospital it says on the birth certificate. I still think I have my trophies from the youth league at Bertrand Lanes. I may be a Warren grad, but my address was always Waukegan, and that town’s as working class as they come!

            Quonset on Fridays: the good life! Living in Milwaukee, I try to get there every time I go see my Dad (who lives in the Harbor). I try to explain the greatness of Quonset to the uninitiated, but words can’t do it justice.

            I’ll have to take you up on that slice offer sometime!

          1. Sammy Maudlin (f/k/a Kevin Scott)

            [slaps knee hysterically]

            I just want to say something. This man – tongorad – is WHAT MAKES THIS TOWN GREAT!

      2. optimader

        I could only imagine the backlash if this ad campaign only featured noncaucasians/ethnic minorities! MSM would go berserk.
        In media, the last bastion for dumb in commercials is a middle class white guy.

    2. Howard Beale IV

      Only in the USA do we make addictions ‘diseases’.

      Worse still is the billions spent in ‘treatment’ that has a failure rate as high as most Stage IV cancers.

      1. Yves Smith

        I take it you’ve never met a Stage IV alcoholic, I have.

        The survival rate for Stage IV alcoholics, likes Stage IV cancer, is 20% over 5 years. As in 80% will be dead.

        The Stage IV woman I met had visible brain shrinkage on scans, memory problems, was paranoid and subject to highly self destructive and vindictive behavior. She’s also call the cops and try claiming her 6’5″ probably at least 240 lb husband was beating her (she was 5’2″ and thin). The cops would inevitably take her away.

        This is a woman who once had a high end IT consulting business, excellent reputation in the Apple community.

        She is now homeless.

        So you criticizing the medical profession for treating this as a health problem is off base. They may not have great remedies, but this is undeniably a very serious health risk with a decay path in Stage III and IV cases.

  16. Katniss Everdeen

    OK, so it’s late in the day and I’ll take the other side of this.

    These kids borrowed heavily to get a “degree.” And what did it get them? Well, let’s see. The colleges got a bunch of six-figure “administrative” executive positions, a lot of fancy new buildings and some pretty financially fat university presidents. The feds got $41 BILLION in profits on interest–in one year.

    The kids got a shitload of undischargeable debt, a worthless “degree,” a minimum wage job in the “service” economy and clean sheets in their bedroom at the old homestead with Ma and Pa.

    Having saved the American “higher education” system, they are now tasked with saving the medical insurance system and, by extension, the entire medical-industrial complex. Those old geezers with pre-existing conditions are sure not going to save themselves and don’t be expectin’ the government to do anything for them. “Shared sacrifice” and all.

    How long until the housing industry comes a-calling? And how long until the “financial services” industry rings the bell for round 2?

    If I was in this position, I’d probably drink a little. Hell, I’d probably drink A LOT. This isn’t your grandfather’s alcoholism, it’s survival.

    (See “Shock Doctrine” for Naomi Kleins’s discussion of alcohol as the preferred palliative for oligarch-induced despair in Yeltsin’s Russia.)

    1. DakotabornKansan

      “During the Cold War, widespread alcoholism was always seen in the West as evidence that life under Communism was so dismal that Russians needed large quantities of vodka to get through the day. Under capitalism, however, Russians drink more than twice as much alcohol as they used to – and they are reaching for harder painkillers as well.” – Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

      We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.

      “Today, according to the World Health Organization, one-in-five men in the Russian Federation die due to alcohol-related causes, compared with 6.2 percent of all men globally. In her 2000 article “First Steps: AA and Alcoholism in Russia,” Patricia Critchlow estimated that some 20 million Russians are alcoholics in a nation of just 144 million.”

      Individual choices have universal consequences:

      “A new review of studies finds high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome in children who are adopted from Russian and Eastern European orphanages, or who are in foster care. These children also are more likely than average to have other physical, mental and behavioral problems related to alcohol exposure in the womb.

      The review concludes children exposed to alcohol before birth are nine to 60 times as likely to have alcohol-related problems compared with the general population. These problems may include mental retardation, physical deformities and learning disabilities

      Actions always have consequences!

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        I’m thinking that Russia does “capitalism” the way that the US does “capitalism.” Euphemistically.

    2. anon y'mouse

      tangential to your point, I woke up to this in my college email today:

      “Dear Colleagues,

      Earlier this month, I wrote to you about the need to put PSU on a sustainable fiscal path and asked for campus input on how the university should address a projected $15 million shortfall in 2014-15. Thanks to all those who submitted comments and suggestions.

      Let me update you on the progress that we have made toward balancing our budget:

      – After careful consideration, PSU’s Executive Committee has determined that unrepresented unclassified administrators and staff earning an annual salary of $100,000 or more will not receive general pay increases in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Department chairs and equivalent positions are excluded. This will save approximately $860,000 over two years, which allows us to maintain critical academic programs and reduce the number of potential layoffs. No decision has been made regarding salary increases for unrepresented staff who earn less than $100,000 annually. PSU is successful because of the hard work of our employees, but it is not possible to bring our budget into balance without some impact on compensation. Salaries and benefits account for 81 percent of our annual operating budget, which have increased at a faster rate than our revenues.

      – On the revenue side, we learned this month that our enrollment showed a slight increase from last year, and tuition revenue is up $1.5 million because of increased student-credit hours. That’s good news, and it reflects the strength of PSU in recruiting and supporting our students.

      We still have a considerable distance to go to bridge our budget gap, and we are considering many options on how to get there. We continue to welcome your suggestions and feedback on the Finance and Administration website at We also have prepared detailed answers to the questions we have received in a “Frequently Asked Questions” format that is newly posted on this website. In addition, I will continue to provide regular updates, and we will schedule a campus town hall meeting during winter quarter and invite faculty, staff and students to attend.

      Thank you again for all that you do for PSU, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in helping us find solutions to help balance our budget.


      xxx xxxxxxxx, President*”

      *name blanked out to protect the guilty. who, by the way, supposedly makes over $500k all told himself every year.

      ~plays MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”

  17. optimader

    This has nothing to do with alcoholism, but it is an acutely stupid ad campaign because:

    1.) I’m paying for it, so are you;

    2.) It demonstrates an apparent vacuousness relative to there being legitimate motivations for young people to sign up;

    3.)It engenders a message that we need young folk to load up the “risk pool” because they apparently don’t appreciate as yet a need for insurance because “they all engage in implied poorly judged impulse behavior when drinking”;

    4.) It implies alcoholic beverage consumption is intrinsically risky behavior;

    5.) It is insulting to responsible drinkers

    How about an ad campaign of construction workers operating power tools and drinking or diverted attention drivers texting?

    1. craazyboy@

      6) These are the healthy young people that the Theory of ObamaCare says we need in the risk pool to lower healthcare costs for all.

      Makes perfect sense.

    2. craazyboy

      6)These are the healthy young people that the Theory of ObamaCare says we need in the risk pool to lower healthcare costs for all.

      Makes perfect sense.

  18. rustam

    This is the most bizarre thing I have seen since I came to the US from Europe a year ago. I can hardly believe they’re not a parody.

  19. Carol Sterritt-Frost

    All of this was already predicted in the wise yet fun movie “Idiocracy.”

    In this country, the lowest common denominater is the winner. Corrupt electoral politics, corrupt health system, corrupt educational system, corrupt values promoted (Reality TV has educated an entire generation that NO VALUES is what life is about. The generation that grew up on TV shows with moral attitudes dispalyed on TV (The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Bonanaza, etc) went on to demand the government shut down its illegal wars. So many in this new generation could care less.

  20. Code Name D

    twenty something’s, lost in each other’s eyes, or something more athletic trick skateboarding or trick cycling, skiing, sky diving, mountain climbing. How about two young men proudly showing off their home made gismo in the mouth of their parent’s garage. “The next generation of Bill Gates’ – deserves next generation healthcare.” Or a small but scrappy fill crew with pawn-shop cameras and video equipment, “The next generation of Gorge Lucus’ deserves a next generation healthcare.” The possibilities practically write themselves.

    But what do we get? Bing drinkers! What next, young men at the cigar store sampling the new Cubin imports? Young girls saying “I can now do twenty guys at once, now that I got Obamacare”? Or maybe, “I like to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs, not healthcare insurance.”

    “Got insurance?” Really? That’s so unoriginal that milk lobby could sue for copyright infringement.

    Obamacare is Obama’s Katrina. Both will leave a trail of bodies in their wake. But at least the dead from New Orllines got a monument.

    1. Code Name D

      This exposes just how deep the fail Obamacare truly is.

      I also lost a friend to alcohol and drugs. And he was in the bottom, lost his job, his friends, his apartment, car, tools, his bike – he sold it all in order to get his fix. I did have to pull him out of a ditch once time, both wasted and desperate. He knew he had a problem, and he said to me many times he wanted treatment. What he got – was his name on a waiting list. And the job where he worked at actually has excellent healthcare coverage – that’s how he got on the list in the first place, because the company was committed to paying for his treatment and his rehabilitation. But he was fired before a bed could be made available. And once he lost his job – he lost his place on the list.

      Last I heard from him, he was fleeing the state – trying to get away from law as well as the constant and relentless temptation.

      Yay, he was in trouble with the law, because that is what drug additions do.

      No. In America, when a man finally manages to pull himself out of the gutter, drenched in his own vomit, and finally declares to the world “I need help!” They should get it. With all the urgency of a house fire. They should be able to call 911 and say “please, I am addicted and I need help.” Sirens should scream, tires screech, they should run red lights, risk life and limb to bring them into a treatment center. Do different than pulling them from a burning building, or responding to a heart attack.

      Real healthcare means not watching helplessly as your friends slowly die from their addictions – simply because you don’t have the money or fame to get checked into the best celebrity detox that dose more to rehabilitate your arrest record than your addiction.

      God damn you bustards! He was my friend. And I get a fucking sales pitch for insurance!

      Adding insult to injury is not my idea of a good sales pitch.

  21. bob goodwin

    there are advertisements for food stamps here also there are advocacy groups that try and get people to signup that use tax money, but I am guessing that the advocacy groups are funded generally, not specifically to get people on food stamps.

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