Friday, November 1, 2013

Obamacare marketing push on hold is pictured. | Reuters
Team Obamacare is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of essentially frozen assets — yet another consequence of the failed launch of 

There’s no point in an ad blitz directing people to sign up on a website that doesn’t work. And while advocacy groups say they had always planned to spend more money on the back end to boost enrollment in lagging states at the end of this year and early next year, they didn’t count on the opening month fizzle.

The website bomb is more than just an inconvenience for the groups, stocked with people who have been working for years to ensure that insurance is available to all Americans. The ad effort is an integral part of the plan to sign up enough people — particularly the “young invincibles” so critical to making the law’s exchanges a success — to make the system both accessible and affordable.

“You can have the greatest PR program imaginable on all different platforms — social, media, advertising and earned media — but you have to have a product that is functioning,” said Peter Mirijanian, a Washington PR veteran.

The pro-Obamacare interest groups have been holding back, according to White House and insurance industry sources, in large part because they don’t want to direct people to a website that’s not working.

“There was definitely a pullback,” said one health insurance company executive, noting concern about “money wasted” on advertising. “Why would you spend $1 million sending people to a website that’s broken?” the executive asked.

Enroll America, which is closely tied to the administration, has always focused its effort on digital advertising and field organizing rather than broadcast television, according to Justin Nisly, a spokesman for the group. Officials there also looked at October as a month for educating consumers, so the main shift has not been in expenditures but in directing folks to get information from human beings rather than the troubled website.

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