Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Playing Doctor

I have never been one to jump on the "evil insurance company" band wagon. I believe in the free market system and how it deals with companies who treat their customers the way Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield treated my wife today.

The beauty of the free market system is that it usually cleanses itself of poor performers, while those that perform according to the market's desires flourish and prosper. Well, after today let's just say that my wife and I will exercise our right as customers in our great free market system to drop Anthem like a bad habit.

My wife, approximately 4 months pregnant, went to see her doctor today because she has had the nagging symptoms of a cold plus horrendous cough off and on for several weeks and it seems to go away just long enough to make a comeback only days later. Finally I convinced her to go back to the doctor. This time the doctor gave her a prescription and I called the pharmacy to insure it had been filled prior to leaving the house to pick it up.

This is where it gets a bit interesting. The pharmacist tells me they have not filled the prescription because the insurance company would not pay for it. I said that must be a mistake because the plan we pay for covers a percentage of our prescriptions (of which we rarely use - fortunately we are blessed with a pretty healthy family and we do not run for drugs every time we think we are sick). The pharmacist said that Anthem will not pay for the prescription OUR DOCTOR prescribed because ANTHEM WANTED US TO USE A CHEAPER DRUG. The pharmacist then proceeded to tell us to get our doctor to write a prescription for a different drug then come pick that up.

I informed the pharmacist that at 7:00pm on the Wed evening before Thanksgiving our doctor was long gone from the office and could not be reached to write another prescription for my wife. So, I told the pharmacist to fill the script and I would just pay for it in full myself.

So let's get this straight; 1. we pay for Anthem insurance and it covers prescriptions, except when they decide to just not pay 2. a certified medical doctor writes a prescription for a sick person - in this case a pregnant woman - and someone from Anthem decides they can save a few bucks, they override the doctors script and tell the pharmacist what we should take, in essence playing the role of the doctor - patient unseen

So after thinking about this I have a few questions for Anthem...
1. Are you a certified medical professional?? Do you have the legal ability to tell people what drugs they should take for their ailments?? From miles away without even seeing the patient??

2. If you have the medical certification to tell people what drugs to take for their medical conditions, do you also carry the appropriate malpractice insurance to cover the law suits you are certain to incur when a patient follows your recommendation and experiences a negative side effect or even, God forbid, worse additional sickness or even death???

3. Assuming Anthem has done this to many people repeatedly, have you experienced a class-action lawsuit from the folks that have been unable to pay for the prescription treatment that their policy was supposed to cover, yet you denied and recommended something else??

4. Could you be any larger cowards and have a worse customer service policy by relying on pharmacists to deliver this news??? Could you not have called your customer yourself to tell them that you would not pay for a prescription that the policy your customer pays full premiums for should cover?? This may very well be the absolute worst customer service predicament I have ever experienced - EVER. You not only blindside your customer - you totally blow off responsibility to a third party pharmacist and leave them to deal with upset, ill, frustrated customers, who I am sure in many cases don't know what to do because they cannot afford to pay the full price for the prescriptions you won't cover, even though your policy says you will.


God bless the free market. What do I do now?? Well, the first thing I do is inform the general public about how Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is a horrible insurer. The next thing I do is switch health insurance providers to my company's provider ASAP. Then I insure the company I own NEVER utilizes Anthem for health coverage for our organization. Then I inform all of the other business owners I know (that is quite a few) to not use Anthem and the reasons why I think they are not worth dealing with. Lastly, I will contact Anthem and let them know how I feel.

What does this all mean to Anthem, I mean I only one guy, what do they care if I drop them?? They have thousands of customers, what is one less??

A few lessons are obvious here:
1. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the UAW all felt the same way at some point in time - now they are all looking at extinction - and rightfully so - decades of taking customers for granted, offering crappy products and sub-par customer service have caught up - I don't see Honda or Toyota looking for a hand out

2. Saving $20 on me just cost Anthem what will end up being hundreds, if not more, existing clients and future clients

3. Their competitors just gained those clients - that doubles the problem for Anthem automatically

4. I would not be surprised if Anthem has opened themselves up for some potential legal ramification by doing this - especially when a patient takes the drugs they tell them to take and has an adverse reaction

5. Tomorrow it may not matter, but treating customers this way will eventually catch up to them - see point #1

So Anthem, I hope the $20 you saved made you feel real good, the damage you caused your brand is severe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Audience Meet the Future, Future Meet the Audience

Check this out straight from Technology Review, a publication from our taped glasses wearing homies at MIT...

How Google Plans to Take Over TV
Can Google apply its Web-advertising formula to television?
Friday, November 21, 2008
By Erica Naone

Can Google conquer television? Yesterday, I talked with Keval Desai, product manager for Google's TV Ads unit, and he did a pretty good job convincing me that it can.

"TV is becoming like the Web," Desai says. From an advertiser's perspective, he has a point. In the 1980s, a popular TV program like The Cosby Show might have captured half the viewers in the entire United States; today's most popular shows, like American Idol, are lucky to capture a fourth of the whole audience. The difference is that there are dozens of channels now, each catering to a different set of viewers. As Desai notes, this is a lot like the Web: the audience is out there, but it's split into small bits consuming a wide variety of content.

So Google's TV Ads system works much like AdWords. An advertiser selects keywords and sets a spending limit for each day (per thousand people who see the ad). The system then figures out where and when the ad should be placed. Google is borrowing another trick from Web advertising: a soon-to-be-launched feature that lets advertisers search for shows based on audience demographics (a feature inspired by Google's search-based ad targeting).

The service is clearly aimed at a different kind of television advertiser. In addition to a simplified user interface, TV Ads includes instructions on how to visit Google's marketplace and find someone who can help make an advert. Indeed, Desai says, the plan is to draw in advertisers who don't normally put ads on TV and, as a complement, bring ad dollars to networks that don't normally have broad recognition.

The TV Ads interface already lets you select target shows based on audience age and gender information, which is in turn based on data from a partnership with Nielsen. But Desai told me about a partnership that will take this farther. A satellite-TV company called Echostar, working with credit-reporting company Equifax, will cross-reference shows watched (using its own data from set-top boxes) with income and buying habits (using Equifax's data). This will let Google offer shows to advertisers that will reach, for example, people with household incomes greater than $100,000. Desai stresses that all this data is made anonymous, so it certainly won't be possible to target specific households with ads.

I wonder how long we'll have to wait for that.


Just wanted to give a quick shout of thanks to Kyle Lacy for deciding to drop The Short Attention Span Theatre on his list of Top 50 Blogs.

As the author of this digital fish wrap, I say "Thank you sir."

One note - In his description of my blog, Kyle calls me an amazing designer - I wish I could take credit for the really solid design work that comes out of our shop at The Basement, however, I am not a designer, I just like working with them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Question Begs to Be Answered

I asked a question yesterday at the end of my post that begs for an answer.
I will ask it again...

If you pay millions to expose potentially millions of people to your brand for potentially thirty seconds and have no real way to know how many were exposed, what would you pay to expose them to and have them interact with your brand for over eight minutes?? You can quantify this audience and time engaged as hard fact. What is that worth?

My answer is the bar has been set with broadcast spend rates - either they need to come down or savvy online marketers need to shed the beggar's garb and ask for a reasonable fee commensurate with real, tangible results.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that eight minute stat is pulled from an actual project we worked on with an agency partner on behalf of a large national brand. I guarantee they are paying considerably more for their broadcast spend (30 second spots) for the same campaign. The site we created is retaining over 35,000 unique visitors a month for an average of eight minutes forty three seconds.

What is your answer??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

P & G and National Semiconductor Agree Games Engage, Educate

Pulled from BusinessWeek, Jane McGonigal's Brave New World...
Major corporations, including Procter & Gamble (PG), Electronic Arts (ERTS), and National Semiconductor (NSM), have given some of their employees an unusual assignment: play a free online game.

Admittedly, it's not a typical entertainment video game, with sophisticated 3D graphics, fantastical characters, or shoot-'em-up plots. And the corporations aren't just allowing workers to have fun on the job. Instead, the game, called Superstruct, asks players to imagine the world in 2019.

Access full article HERE

I agree games can be very effective in helping individuals learn and plan out scenarios - creating awareness, preparedness and ultimately an educated and ready populace. Since this is an outlet about marketing and communication let's take the tool and adjust the model a bit.

Games, specifically video games, are the archetype for the age old adage of full engagement = full experience which yields full understanding. Simply put doing is a heck of a lot more effective and more interesting than watching and/or listening - convert the passive experience into an active one and you succeed on multiple fronts from a marketing stand point. More brand recognition, higher levels of understanding as it relates to unique value, increased word of mouth and viral distribution potential.

Add full campaign integration into the mix and you have a powerful opportunity for making the type of impact all of the buzz word bandits like to call "the holy grail" of marketing.

All I call it is "effective."

Here is a question I will leave you with....
If you pay millions to expose potentially millions of people to your brand for potentially thirty seconds and have no real way to know how many were exposed, what would you pay to expose them to and have them interact with your brand for over eight minutes??
What is that worth?

Feel free to let me know. Thanks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogging Dry Spell

Realized I have not written much significant material lately. My apologies. It has been very busy at The Basement Design + Motion. That is a good thing. We are working hard on some exciting projects and hashing through our plans and opportunities that are already lining up for 2009. Should be another great year working with our fantastic clients - those already with us and those yet to hop on board.

A special thank you to all who have joined us in making 2008 a great year filled with exceptional work, solid results and lot of fun.

Looking forward to more in '09.

Friday, November 14, 2008