Accidental truth in advertising.

Some advertisers get so twisted up in their own lies and are so tone-deaf that they wind up inadvertently speaking the truth.

Consider if you will the new campaign from United Healthcare. The theme line is “Health in numbers.”

Why would a managed-care organization ever say something like that? Are they insane? Did a bitter proof-reader or disgruntled studio person remove the words “is not” between “Health” and “in” after one too many denied claims?

Numbers, after all, are not the solution, at least not to the average person. Numbers are the f****** problem. Policy numbers, claim numbers, phone numbers, reason for denial numbers, annual cap on benefits numbers, and the ever-rising number you see on your paycheck every 2 weeks that gets paid out to maintain your coverage.

So did United Healthcare and its agency have a massive wave of contrition, and decide to confess the truth—that healthcare insurance has been reduced to a dehumanized, soulless algorithm?

I’m guessing no. I’m guessing they got clever. They decided to cleverly turn a liability into an asset in the grand tradition of Volkswagen and Benson &Hedges, and make “numbers” mean something good.
If you can choke back the bile long enough to dig into the advertising, you’ll see what I mean: numbers=size=leverage=data=more benefits for more people.

And just to make sure you hate not just the words but the pictures, they plaster numbers all over people’s bodies and foreheads, conjuring up everything from concentration-camp tattoos to UPC codes to some grim near-future dystopia where we truly are nothing but numbers.

But why quibble? Once they used the word “numbers” in the same sentence as the word “health”, they were screwed. Too clever by half, they went 180º from the truth and wound up being honest entirely by accident.


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