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4 marketing lessons from the new 'Obamacare' commercial

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The second public health insurance exchange annual open enrollment period won’t start until Nov. 15 in most of the country, but eHealth Inc. (Nasdaq:EHTH) is already running television commercials advertising its ability to help.

The Web-based health insurance broker is running one TV advertising campaign to support its Medicare plan sales site, and another campaign to support its major medical sales site.

Some say the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange managers might face even more marketing challenges this time around. Last year, the enrollment period started Oct. 1 and straggled to an end in mid-April in most of the country. This year, the enrollment period is supposed to be much shorter, with the curtain falling Feb. 15.

Exchange managers may have less cash for advertising. Potential prospects know that other consumers have “gotten consumers” — but they’ve also had time to hear stories about problems with finding in-network providers and using coverage.

At eHealth — a company that can help consumers enroll either in qualified health plans (QHPs) through an exchange or through off-exchange coverage — marketing managers are trying to create their own promotional magic.

In the New York City area, for example, one commercial, the “Uninsured Helpline” spot, ran Monday on getTV — on Channel 68.3. Channel 68.3 is one of the new digital broadcast channels. It was squeezed in alongside Channel 68, a Univision station.

In between scenes in an old Barbra Streisand movie, the channel ran an ad for final expense life insurance, then an ad for eHealth’s Medicare plan site, and then an ad for the Uninsured Helpline.

The analysts at, a television ad tracking firm, said they know of two versions of the ad, and that the ad has run at least 40 times on national TV.

Whether you sell health insurance, long-term care insurance, life insurance or other products, what can you learn from the eHealth ad? Here are some ideas.

Royal family

1. Don’t be proud.

The eHealth looks and sounds a great deal like the kind of commercial that might advertise male enhancement pills.

But, let’s face it: You aren’t the queen of England. You’re selling insurance. And most of us remember seeing commercials for male enhancement pills. Maybe those commercials — and the old used care commercials featuring a lightly clothed man in a barrel — are worth emulating.

See also: Throwback Thursday: The 6 best insurance ads from yesteryear

Image: AP Photo/Sang Tan


2. Arrive early — but not too early.

If eHealth had started the TV campaign a few weeks ago, strict open enrollment rules might have kept many consumers interested in buying major medical coverage from doing much on the eHealth website.

A few weeks from now, the Uninsured Helpline commercial might have to compete head to head with many similar commercials, and commercials sponsored by the PPACA exchanges.

See also: Health ad spending jumps

Big characters

3. For critical information, like your phone number, use big characters.

This is one of the obvious lessons that can be easy to forget.

You can have the best ideas and the most beautiful execution in the world, but, if your prospects can’t understand your message, remember your Web address or see your telephone number well enough, and long enough, to write it down, none of the creativity and polish will matter.

See also: Targeting Seniors? Talk To Senior Helpers

George Washington on a dollar bill

4. Remember that even people who hate a public policy or program that would bring them money generally like the money.

Executives at eHealth might possibly call PPACA the “Affordable Care Act” or the “ACA” when they’re talking to regulators who others who support the law.

When they’re advertising to the general public, they call it by its Fox News name — “Obamacare.”

The company tells viewers, “Your Obamacare with government subsidy money is now available. Health Insurance is guaranteed!”

They don’t hem, haw or hedge when it comes to describing the limits on who can qualify for PPACA premium subsidies. They simply assume that most of the consumers who would call in response to a commercial like this one will have a shot at qualifying for a subsidy, and get past any hostility about the health law by telling prospects about the best points of the options available.

See also: Obama mocks ‘crazy’ GOP Obamacare predictions