U.S. senator calls Cover Oregon TV ads 'egregious'

U.S. senator calls Cover Oregon TV ads 'egregious' »Play Video
This is a still image from one of the Cover Oregon television ads running on local TV stations. According to the ad agency that created the commercials, the two most well-known ads cost between $100,000 and $160,000 to make.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The owner of the advertising agency responsible for Cover Oregon’s commercials now says he wishes he left off the infamous web address in the TV ads.

But Mark Ray, owner of North, Inc., says he wouldn't change anything else.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma would change a few things.

He called out Oregon’s health care program's marketing budget in his “egregious government spending” yearly report.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma produces a ‘Wastebook.’

Chapter Nine discusses advertising and marketing budgets for health care programs and calls out Cover Oregon’s $10 million marketing campaign.

The report specifically criticizes Cover Oregon for airing television ads that don't even say the word "insurance."

A spokesman for Cover Oregon disputed the figure and says it actually spent $8.3 million to date.

That includes television, radio, print, online and billboard advertisements.

“We have 600,000 uninsured Oregonians, and they need to know their options,” said Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox.

Cox refused to answer questions on camera until KATU News went to the Cover Oregon office and requested an interview.

Cover Oregon has also not provided detail marketing and advertising budgets. KATU submitted a formal public records request on Tuesday morning.

The $8.3 million created the ‘Long Live Oregonians’ theme you’ve probably seen on TV. It’s produced by a company in Northwest Portland called North, Inc.

“I’m proud of it,” said agency founder Mark Ray, who oversaw the creative and production process for the TV ads.

Ray says the two most well-known ads with a male and female singer traveling around Oregon cost between $100,000 and $160,000 each.

The male singer actually traveled from east to west producing the commercial over five to nine days.

Cover Oregon has not provided details about where it is paying for the ad to air.

Ray says he stands behind the product but wishes he’d changed one critical element.

“At the end of these commercials, we might not have put the website. We might have put the phone number,” said Ray.

"When senators come out and talk about that, I think they're looking for opportunities to spread misinformation about this," he said.

Ray stands behind the commercial that only featured singing.

"We have a year-long strategy," he said. "That was only the first part."

Ray says research shows seven percent of Oregonians knew of Cover Oregon back in the spring, but 75 percent did after the first phase of the ad campaign.

Read Sen. Tom Coburn's "Wastebook"