When Two Ferns Can’t Save Obamacare’s Marketing

We’ve reached today’s (sort of ) deadline for Americans without employer-provided health care to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, and to the relief of Democrats everywhere the White House has reached its goal of 6 million sign-ups.  It remains to be seen just how many millennials have opted-in for government health care, but there’s been no shortage of attempts by the White House to make “Get Covered” go viral among this demographic. We’ve seen it all – celebrity endorsements to GIFs to Funny or Die appearances – but have we actually seen effective millennial marketing?

As a millennial, I can’t say I’ve been swayed by the White House’s efforts. I am fortunate enough to have amazing benefits through MRY (ps. we’re hiring ), but if I were in a position where I needed to find information on affordable health care options I do not think that an episode of “Between Two Ferns” or a bracket of “The 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered” would be where I would turn to begin making my decision.  Additionally, while I respect LeBron James as an athlete, I am not sure that we are in similar positions when it comes to our health insurance options, so I probably can’t take his advice on this issue at face value.  And ultimately, if Saturday Night Live can’t take this campaign seriously, why should millennials?

Here’s where I think the White House may have missed the mark:

So, what are you selling?

The marketing here does a poor job of advocating for the product itself. Yes, Zach Galifianakis’s exchange with President Obama is hilarious, and I’m definitely guilty of sharing it with a few friends. But are the few soundbites at the end when Obama actually talks about the ACA the major takeaway you get from watching the interview? Nope. Instead, the headlines accompanying this video focused on Obama’s takedown of the third Hangover movie, which I’m sure is not the message the White House was looking to spread here.

Serious message, silly marketing.

Take the ACA Bracket, for example. I love a cute kitten GIF as much as the next millennial, but in this context that adorable GIF makes me feel a little bit like I’m being talked down to. Same with the infamous “Brosurance” ads that plagued the nation earlier this year imploring young people to consider their beer funds when signing up for health insurance. Already depicted in the media as lazy and shallow, we millennials aren’t interested in ads that reinforce negative perceptions about our generation.

Help us help you.

The ACA exchanges need young, healthy consumers to enroll for a balanced risk pool that keeps premiums from spiking next year. Millennials are ultimately smart and self-interested, and we have the tools at our disposal to make an educated decision about whether or not Obamacare is right for us. If the product isn’t a good product, no amount of funny or “viral” marketing can convince us to sign up. We don’t need a high-profile or humorous sales pitch – just give us solid options for our health insurance and let us take it from there.

This is all just one millennial’s view, and it will be interesting to see when the final numbers roll in how effective the White House’s ACA campaign actually was in reaching our age group. However, it is my hope that moving forward we see a more cohesive and informative campaign around an issue as important as ensuring that the 50 million people who lack health insurance find coverage options that fit their needs. And let’s hope that the team behind the effort ignore SNL’s suggestion about having our President kiss Justin Bieber on the mouth…


Wearable tech: goofy? Sometimes. The future? Probably.


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