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Healthcare Marketing Firm Weighs In On Obamacare Advertising

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October 03, 2013

For those who don't go to work every day at a healthcare advertising agency, you may not have noticed there's a booming new advertising category that's about to pour billions of dollars into media outlets' coffers. We're talking about advertising to promote the new health insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act. With gigantic budgets, stiff competition, and plenty of controversy, it's enough to make the most seasoned healthcare advertising agency CEO stop and stare.

Just during the open enrollment period, public and private entities will spend an estimated $684 million to encourage people to sing up for health insurance plans, this, according to a report from the Associated Press earlier this year. Who's spending the most? California is investing $60 million in advertising for its state exchange, Covered California; Oregon has allotted $3.2 million just for its first round of advertising; and Minnesota has piled $9 million into promotions for its MNsure exchange. What healthcare ad agency wouldn't want to grab a piece of that business?

Healthcare Ad Agency Says Focus On TV

Of the 7 million people the Affordable Care Act projects will enroll in health plans for 2014, 2.7 million are part of the "young invincibles" demographic. These are people aged 18 to 35 who figure they're too healthy to need insurance. They watch lots of TV, yet the projected media mix for these state exchanges puts relatively few dollars in television advertising. We're wondering why, and so are other healthcare advertising experts.

Yes, we all know millennials love their social media, and they're always connected to their smart phones. And yes, in the past couple of years we have seen a slight decline in television viewership among younger demographics. However, among lower income individuals, especially among lower income people of color, television viewership is on the rise. In fact, a Nielsen study just released found that black people on average watch 37% more television than any other group. And we already know that lower income populations and people of color are less likely to have insurance. From where we sit at our Miami ad agency, it sounds like TV is the place to be. At the very least, perhaps advertisers should consider taking some of their eggs out of the digital basket and putting them into TV.

To elaborate, Nielsen's latest quarterly report shows that 25 to 34-year-olds watched about 2 hours and 40 minutes less during Q2 2013 than in Q2 2012. However, as David Simas, assistant to President Obama and deputy senior advisor for communications and strategy reported to The Washington Post earlier this year, his target group for health insurance exchange advertising is "nonwhite" and "overwhelmingly male." So take note, David, Nielsen identified that African-American viewers increased their television consumption by 4 hours per month in a Q2 year-over-year comparison and continued to consume the most TV on a monthly basis.

Those of us who work at a healthcare marketing firm feel like audience members at a matinee movie, munching our popcorn and anxiously awaiting open enrollment campaigns. What will they look like, and what media mix will the pros choose? One thing's for sure, advertising created by great healthcare marketing firms will play a pivotal role in educating and motivating Americans to purchase health insurance many for the very first time in their lives. So we can look forward to a vibrant new category. Call it the Exchange Hawkers, and we think they'll be here for quite a while.