Marketing Obamacare: Courting the “Young Invincibles”

With the March 31 Affordable Health Care enrollment deadline just a week away*, a lot of effort has been put towards persuading the uninsured to sign up for health insurance. With an estimated $684 million spent on advertising nationwide, marketers like us pay close attention to the strategies and tactics surrounding these efforts. A key focus for the administration has been young, healthy adults, ages 18-29. These “young invincibles” are needed to help offset the costs of the elderly and frequently ill. They are critical to keeping premiums down across the nation and making the program a success. Many health care experts estimate that 40 percent of new enrollees must be the healthy young population to make the program a success, so a majority of advertising has been focused on reaching the young adult audience.

But how do you target this tech savvy, rather skeptical bunch? It’s no secret young adults are hyper-connected to the digital world and quick to consume information online and on their mobile devices. Targeting them in this space is a no-brainer. They’ve been raised, however, with advertising all around them and are very aware when marketed to. They’re also generally unfamiliar with navigating the health care space. A recent study found that 79 percent of Gen Y consumers think it’s easier to evaluate a new tech gadget than find a new doctor, and 76 percent think it’s easier to learn valuable information about hotels than doctors. Effectively reaching young invincibles, educating them about health care options – and more importantly – helping them seamlessly sign up for health insurance, is no simple task. Below we highlight some of the media and tactics used to woo the invincibles.


  • #GetCovered
    Celebrity endorsements were considered a very important part of the push. Months before the October 1 online market place opening, President Obama and staff met with a variety of Hollywood celebrities, athletes and musicians, encouraging them to spread the word about the Health Insurance Marketplace. The hashtag #GetCovered was born, with everyone from Will Ferrell to Eddie Vedder to Lady Gaga to Amy Poehler tweeting and posting to Facebook, encouraging people to get covered and get insured. On October 1 alone, “#GetCovered” was tweeted over 47,000 times, with the topic trending regularly since then.
  • Funny Or Die
    Perhaps the most unconventional endorsement – and maybe the most unconventional appearance by a United States president to date – happened when President Obama appeared across comedian Zach Galifianakis on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns.” In the hours following the video posting, the show was viewed more than 19 million times, and traffic to the site jumped 40 percent. (If you’re not one of the 19 million people who’ve seen it, check it out here.)


  • Young Invincibles App
    The young adult audience is dialed in on their mobile devices, frequently seeking information on their phones or tablets. One of the largest youth enrollment advocacy groups, Young Invincibles, recognized this and launched a free mobile app. The app helps users find a doctor, have questions answered, calculate discounts and links directly to the Health Insurance Marketplace for users to enroll. The app also links to some states’ individual marketplaces, allowing for more plan options. In early March, Young Invincibles launched a sweepstake, which gave each person downloading the app a chance to win $1,200 in healthcare insurance – the estimated cost for a young, single person for one year.


  • Broadcast TV
    While young adults are heavy users of digital, a mix of traditional media was used as well. Broadcast was especially heavy as the deadline grew near. Among many TV and radio appearances by the POTUS and FLOTUS in past months, First Lady Michelle Obama went on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon during his first week on air to urge enrollment. The use of celebrity endorsements continued to be used as well. During the NCAA opening weekend, various commercials featuring celebrity athletes, such as LeBron James, ran on TV.
  • Online News…of sorts
    While young adults are typically not reading the newspaper, and aren’t part of a huge population taking in online news, they do follow a satirical news source – The Onion. The state of Illinois looked to take advantage of this and hired The Onion to run a series of comedic articles, banner ads and online videos. Headlines such as “Recently Insured Man Can’t Wait to Get Out There, Start Seriously Injuring Himself,” looked to use laughs to deliver the health insurance information while starting discourse among the younger population.

So were the tactics to target America’s youth to sign up effective? Only time – and enrollment totals – will tell. There were reports in January that enrollment numbers exceeded the goal and the number of young adults enrolled increased from 24 percent to 27 percent.

In February, however, the percentage of young adults enrolling remained flat, which leaves a lot of progress needed to reach the 40 percent predicted necessary.  With the March 31 deadline rapidly approaching, we’ll find out soon enough whether the strategy was a success.

Do you think these marketing tactics will be enough to convince their young target audience to register?

*Note: At the time this blog was written, the March 31 deadline was extended. Those that are in the process of enrolling by Monday, March 31 have until mid-April to complete their application.