The CCO of the agency that made the ads, North, responded this week to the criticism:
As you probably know, one of the tv spots we created as part of last year’s campaign to drive enrollment in Oregon’s new ACA exchange was brutally parodied by John Oliver on the debut of his new HBO show this past Sunday. Images from our campaign have also recently accompanied scathing reports by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, and pretty much every conservative blog in the known universe.
Now, you may think none of this is fair, given that we have had nothing whatsoever to do with the $200m+ dollars egregiously spent to build Cover Oregon’s online application portal, nor the failure of that endeavor.
You may also think it’s unfair to single out that particular tv spot from the many different ads we created, this one made specifically to connect with mothers, the primary drivers of health care decisions in the family, and always meant to be but one part of a much bigger whole that would reach all Oregonians, regardless of income, ethnicity or geography.
You may think it’s especially unjust because our work delivered the numbers: awareness of Cover Oregon through advertising increased nearly 70% in only four months prior to the first enrollment window in 2013. And on that first day of enrollment, a third of a million people came to the website to sign up. Had it been working, it’s a safe estimate we would have been more than half-way to enrollment goals within the first week. Relative to the marketing budget, we created real return on taxpayer money.
...and so on.
He's right, of course, that neither the agency nor the ads were to blame for the failure of Oregon's health exchange. The agency was in a tricky spot—the ads proved a convenient, that's-so-Oregon comedic shorthand for problem that was in no way their fault, and he's both right and self-serving to try to shift the focus back to the real issue: that despite spending $248 million dollars, Oracle and state technology workers failed to deliver a functional exchange.