Before we get started, there are a couple things you must know about the video above. First, it stars Richard Simmons and was made to promote ♡bamaCare!!!’s increasingly troubled California exchange. Second, despite being one of the most tragically hysterical things that has ever been my squirming fortune to witness, in over a year there isn’t a version of it on YouTube with even 25,000 views. Thirdly, Sacramento spent $137,000,000 — that right: nine figures — to produce and market of this… thing. By way of comparison, last year’s Johnny Depp flop, Transcendence, had a production and marketing budget of “only” $100,000,000.
And of course, what has been seen cannot be unseen — so click Play at your own risk.
Now that you know all that, know all this:
Covered California signed the contracts last week with Ogilvy Public Relations — maker of the $137-million Simmons video — and Campbell Ewald. Both are tasked with creating a media campaign to entice new enrollees, specifically minorities.
Facing the worst drought in recent memory— spurring rising food costs and job losses — Californians have better uses for tax dollars than another PR campaign, says Sen. Ted Gaines, who plans to ask for an audit of Covered California’s marketing department.
“Ogilvy made some major mistakes in their advanced outreach, specifically with the use of Richard Simmons. Why are they being rewarded with a renewed contract when they wasted taxpayer money?” asked Gaines. “The video bombed; I wasn’t able to get satisfactory answers as to what they accomplished with this.”
Kudos to Senator Gaines for bringing this up, but I fear he’s asking the wrong questions. This isn’t about the wisdom of hiring Richard Simmons or why the video failed to connect with California viewers.
It’s about where the hell $137,000,000 dollars really went.
You’ve got a washed up exercise “star” who would probably have agreed to appear for a few thousand dollars and a new fright wig. The host is Hannah Hart, “the star of an internet show about drunk cooking.” Surely she couldn’t have been paid much more than scale. The studio cost little, the kind of place you rent in Los Angeles to shoot a Cornballer informercial. The studio audience is made up of people who show up for these things to “get on TV!” and also maybe for juice. The production crew? Bare bones. The writing credits, should there actually be any, couldn’t have cost enough to cover the deductible on an ♡bamaCare!!! Silver plan. The contortionist, Nathan Barnatt, would have happily appeared for free, just to get enough “exposure” to maintain his performance fees at Los Angeles elementary school birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.
There’s no way the video cost $100,000 to produce, and $50,000 seems more likely. I wouldn’t have many doubts if somebody assured me it cost only $25,000.
The rest is “marketing,” but you can’t spend $137,000,000 (even minus $100,000) marketing a seven-minute informercial — you stick those things on YouTube for free, or for nearly free at 3AM on cable channels with nothing else to run in the wee small hours.
It’s impossible — impossible — to spend $137,000,000 dollars airing a damn Richard Simmons video.
It. Can’t. Be. Done.
So the question Senator Gaines should be asking is, “Where did the money go?”
We know how these things work in Hollywood, where the books are cooked like a rib roast in England — “This still has some flavor — you’d better boil it some more!” Only instead of actors and investors getting ripped off, this time it’s California (and American) taxpayers.
There ought to be an investigation, and it ought to lead to criminal charges.
But lining the pockets of Democratic favorites with a hundred million dollars or two is just another sign that President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is achieving exactly what it was designed to do.