A new ad campaign promoting Minnesota's health care exchange is poking fun at local folk legends Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, but not everyone is laughing.
Minnesota is one of 16 states starting up an online marketplace in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, and the $9 million advertising endeavor to promote it is already getting a lot of attention.
There's no doubt the legendary lumberjack and his large ox are iconic in Minnesota, but the lore is hardly universal and that may have something to do with the fact that state demographics don't look like they did 20 years ago.
MnSURE introduced the duo as mascots for the health care exchange with great fanfare over the weekend, debuting a few of the ads that feature Bunyan getting injured in all sorts of ingenious ways.
The ads, which claim there are 10,000 reasons to have health insurance, aim to be clever and cute, but 30 percent of uninsured Minnesotans are member of minority groups, and many are new arrivals. For those who didn't grow up in Minnesota or the U.S., Bunyan and Babe aren't familiar faces.
The executive director of MNsure says the campaign went through extensive focus groups and they are confident that those who don't immediately recognize the two will still get the joke.
But not everyone is laughing. In Bemidji -- where giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe can be found, people are pretty possessive of those figures. Mayor Rita Albrecht told the local paper that the ads are "offensive" and "inappropriate."
By Monday afternoon, Albrecht had softened somewhat, telling FOX 9 News the campaign is "an opportunity to remind people that Paul and Babe live in Bemidji."
The icons are considered to be in the public domain, so there is no copyright on them. The legend can be traced back to French fur traders but they became popularized by an ad campaign for the Red River Lumber Company in the 1920s.
Other states are also promoting their state-designed markets. Kentucky took up a bluegrass theme. Oregon also went the folk route, and Colorado has a lottery theme.
As for MNsure, the plans that will be available for purchase will be available to review online on Sept. 6. The official launch will take place on Oct. 1.