This is the story of how one idea brought the advertising and media industries together to do something meaningful.
In 2017, a new administration entered the White House and set sights on weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—health care reform intending to offer low-cost options to Americans. Specifically, they cut the advertising budget by 90% while reducing the enrollment window by half. The goal of cuts was to reduce the number of people signing up for government-subsidized health care.
In response, independent creative agency Barton F. Graf established the Coverage Coalition: a grassroots collective of creative and media thinkers from across the country who united to get the word out about ACA and ensure that Americans knew their health care options.
With no budget, Barton F. Graf knew it could not be done alone. The agency’s first big action was to create the Coverage Coalition hub that included an open brief with all the information needed for kindred agencies, designers, content creators and concerned citizens to make and post their own calls to sign up.
A quick analysis of ACA’s data showed that (not coincidentally) the states with the highest number of enrollees in 2016 were the states that were hit the hardest by funding cuts.
The agency knew it needed to be extremely targeted in its efforts to reach the people who needed the information most, and it needed to create a ton of content to do so.
Sending out a call-to-action on Facebook, the hub included a strategic brief, creative template, and comms principles that aimed to humanize healthcare and remain non-partisan.
Agencies, freelancer and students from around the world answered with thousands of social posts. Minority outreach programs were cut, so the coalition created social posts in four different languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin and Traditional Chinese.
Former Obama health care experts joined and identified those most in need. Media companies joined, donating real-time data on the ads and donated radio, out-of-home, banners and even national TV spots, where the agency created spots starring Paul Revere on a horse motorcycle shouting ‘the deadline is coming’
When the administration removed the workers at the help desk that helped people sign up, the Coverage Coalition created a Facebook Messenger Bot that navigated people through the sign-up process and helped answer questions.
What started as a call to the industry, a few social posts and a toolkit turned into a national effort backed by agencies, design shops, and insurance consultants around the country with TV spots, billboards in Times Square and record-breaking sign-ups — all with zero paid media dollars.
Even with a 90% budget cut, half the time and no budget, The Coverage Coalition reached over 100 million people in the month-and-a-half campaign period. In the first week, enrollments were up 179% over 2016. The second week, enrollment was up 60%.
Campaign assets drove back to coveragecoalition.org
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