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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sex Sells...Health Insurance

Sex Sells Health Insurance
With today being the deadline to sign up for ObamaCare, healthcare companies are making their last ditch efforts to sign up as many new customers as they can. One example caught my eye recently. There's a non-profit health insurance co-op in Colorado that's using an old trick to sell our nation's new health plan: beautiful models standing in front of a booth. Colorado HealthOp hired four young, tightly dressed models to convince more people to sign up. At least there were two male and two female models, so even the ladies have some eye candy to enjoy while they ponder their health insurance options. And, let's face it, it's easier to decide whether you want a plan with a Health Savings Account when there's an attractive model walking you through the options.

States are faced with some demographic issues with the exchanges: they need more people to sign up, young people in particular, as they have lower health care costs. Sick people and old people are enrolling, as insurance provides a good deal for them. For the ACA to be effective, insurers need young people to enroll, too, hoping that they'll pay more into the system than they'll take out in health care costs. The Colorado HealthOp's campaign seems to fit in that vein of selling to young adults. The campaign's title is "Last Call", with the models handing out juice in shot glasses, and telling passersby that it's last call to buy insurance in ObamaCare.

When Someone Opts Out of ObamaCare, Everyone Takes a Shot

While Colorado HealthOp is only pretending to use alcohol to lure young adults to buy insurance, Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, is using actual booze to convince college students to not participate in the ACA. (It should be noted that the beer itself was "independently provided by student activists.") They've hosted a series of "Thirsty for Freedom" events, encouraging college students to not sign up for health coverage. Not to be outdone, Americans for Prosperity also hired models (cleverly titled "brand ambassadors"), brought an armada of Hummers, beer pong tables, and a guy in an impressively creepy Uncle Sam costume who, from the pictures, looks to be getting a little handsy with the female co-eds. Ignoring the weird costume and the humongous Hummers, Americans for Prosperity is leveraging beautiful women and free beer to "educate" college students about their healthcare options. Lord knows that would have been enough to convince me to skip out on health insurance in my undergrad days.

Marketing Works

These events serve as another reminder that marketers are trying to influence our purchasing behavior, in nearly every aspect of our lives, around the clock. These advertising agencies have incomprehensible amounts of money behind them, with savvy executives dreaming up novel approaches for each campaign. And they have no problem using questionable methods to get you to alter your purchasing behavior. They'll use sex or booze or the ever-changing culture of cool, and tell you that their product will, finally, make you happy and popular. Of course, the real objective is separating you from your money. Regardless of how you feel about the ACA or any other issue, be wary of the seductive agents trying to change your mind and open your wallet. In our financial battle against the army of millions of corporations and their fleet of marketers, they are many, and we frugal are few. Be on guard.

*Photo is from sashafatcat at Flickr Creative Commons.

46 comments:

  1. At least the Colorado HealthOp is using male models as well. I'm a bit jaded on "booth babes" from too many technical conferences. I understand that it sells - and particularly well to geeky guys apparently - but it just screams sexist to me.

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    1. I hear you, Three is Plenty. I'm sure this tactic works and all, and why not use it if it's going to be effective. Still, it's kind of insulting to see that tactic at work for something as important as healthcare decisions.

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  2. There is a reason that most beer commercials feature young, attractive individuals partying in them. The whole target audience is young people who aren't set in their ways yet. That seems to be the point here as well with ACA...getting the young to sign up. Without them, the funding for the program falls apart.

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    1. I agree, Brian. Like with any insurance, you need a certain number of low risk, low cost individuals putting money in the system to cover those who are taking out big claims.

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  3. Yeah the companies need to lower their demographic, but I wonder if anyone is actually signing up from these campaigns?

    I like my "everyone is in" national health care rather than "it is on you to opt in, or pay a fine"... I guess I am jaded about the way it is being rolled out. Any reasoning why it is going this way

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    1. I think it was rolled out that way to preserve the option of not buying healthcare, Alicia, since we don't have much precedent (or any) for forcing citizens to buy a product or service. The tax is the loophole: it technically doesn't force you to buy healthcare, but still gathers funds from citizens who don't buy it.

      As for whether the marketing is effective, I have no doubt that both campaigns are working.

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    2. Gotcha :) I'm just trying to figure out how it works and honestly I'm getting most of my information from you and Holly!

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    3. You couldn't have picked two better sources. :)

      I can only imagine what a mess this looks like from up in Canada...

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  4. I knew marketers used sex to sell products like beer, clothes, cars and things of that nature. But I'd never have thought that they were using it to get people to buy health insurance. I don't follow politics too much...it's too frustrating...but I know I don't like those Koch brothers.

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    1. I'm not a big fan either but, hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If one side can use models, so can the other.

      I naively wish both sides would leave such tactics in the bag, and let young people try to make decisions without twenty-something models and beer influencing their decisions.

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  5. It's sad that they have to resort to such measures. I'm pretty sure young people are staying away from the ACA because its far too expensive, not because of any brainwashing schemes by the Koch brothers.

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    1. It really is unfortunate, Holly. Still, I'm not sure insurance would be that expensive (or cost anything) in the case of some of these young people. Assuming these college kids (or the recently graduated) aren't earning a lot of money, they'd be eligible for some significant subsidies, right?

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    2. Yeah, but I keep reading that the prices for young people are out of this world. So maybe the subsidies aren't big enough to make it affordable for some people.

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    3. I think it's pretty location-dependent, too. Our renter just signed up recently, and is paying something like $50 a month for her plan. But I know insurance is cheaper where we live than in other parts of the nation.

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    4. I was curious about this myself so I went online and filed out just the basics so I could see how much coverage would cost for my wife and I. There were 12 plans to choose from, ranging in a monthly cost from $400/mo up to $1,400/mo.

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    5. Whoa, those are some expensive plans. I guess $400 for two people isn't too rough, but it's still quite a lot of money.

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  6. Good lord! Well, the Colorado Health-Op had a whole ad campaign targeted at young folks - TV commercials and the whole 9 yards, but the fact that the Koch brothers (whom I've taken to pronouncing as the "cock brothers" because it just seems more appropriate) and the whole Americans for Prosperity farce (yeah right... Americans for YOUR prosperity... certainly not for ours) are using sex and alcohol to convince young people NOT to sign up for health insurance... that just seems criminal to me.

    I guess on some level I just have a really hard time believing that anyone could really be naive enough to be swayed by this sort of thing. I mean... seriously?!? This is health insurance we're talking about people... one would think that if the average American had even a modicum of common sense, they'd all be rushing to get it without the need to be convinced. Guess they haven't had the opportunity to see what an emergency room & hospital stay bill actually looks like...

    Grumble, grumble, grumble... well at any rate. I for one am grateful that the ACA exists, though I can't say it's anything close to the system that I would have come up with, it's certainly better than nothing. Single payer would have been the way to go, but alas... all the people getting rich off of the suffering of others might have been dealt a "share the wealth card" and that would be un-American! Not that I'm opinionated on this topic or anything... :-)

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    1. Ha! I love the candid opinion, EcoCatLady. My personal feelings on the ACA aside, I tried to present both sides as using the same tactics, more or less. Both are using sexy models to convince young people re: healthcare. And they're position-agnostic. Advertisers are the agents of anyone with an advertising budget. They don't care whether you benefit from the ACA or not: they just want the ad campaign to be effective.

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    2. True true... although, I've gotta say, it's kinda hard to believe that the sexy thing was really doing any good in the case of the picture of the folks in Colorado - frankly that girl just looks to me like she's freezing her rear end off! Hey... now maybe that's the angle they should have taken - they could have had her carrying a sign reading "What will happen when I catch pneumonia if I haven't signed up for health insurance?"

      Clearly, I am FAR too cynical to participate in a meaningful discussion on this topic! :-)

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    3. Ha! That would have been a much more interesting ad: buy health insurance, so you don't end up getting pneumonia like these poor models.

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  7. Booth babes! What a way for govt to take a play out of industry's playbook. =)

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    1. That's true: I should probably give these agencies some credit. :)

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  8. Wow, never would I have thought that these marketing ploys would come into play with the ever-sexy topic of health care. That's really interesting, and I had no idea that the Koch Brother were also implementing similar tactics for the opposite effects. It isn't the same at all, but while in Chile, I noticed that there were cigarette packs with cancer patients on them. It was really confusing since the cigarette companies were sending out weird and mixed signals (though as someone who doesn't like cigarettes at all, think it's a good tactic and hope it dissuades people from buying the pack!).

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    1. The ad campaigns that have come out as a result of litigation against tobacco companies (e.g. - the Truth campaign) are amazingly effective. When it comes to something as one-sided an issue as tobacco use, I love that advertising is using its power for good to stop people from smoking. What a dumb addiction that is.

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  9. I work in marketing and it is amazing how much the little things can influence us. We may not realize it but we are always being bombarded with messages everyday. I hate the messages that tell us to buy, buy, buy. I wish sometimes more responsible spending habits would be pushed but that is not very profitable

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    1. I didn't know you worked in marketing. Hopefully the post didn't offend, DATG!

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  10. I can't tell you how many times I've been hired to just stand around and "look pretty". Tradeshows, industrials, club entrances- oldest trick in the book.

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    1. If I might ask, how do you feel about those jobs? Flattered? Conflicted? There's a part of me that wishes I could get paid to look handsome in front of a booth but, alas, I have a face made for anonymous blogging. :)

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  11. They even hired Lebron James to get you to sign up. He is a handsome athletic man that I would get health insurance for.

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    1. That's right! I totally forgot about Lebron's ads for the ACA. Until he wins as many championships as Jordan though, I'm not buying health insurance for him.

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  12. Those who are signing up hopefully are doing so because they truly understand what it is they are signing up for. I wonder why the move that I thought was kind of desperate - using attractive models???

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    1. It is a bit desperate, but I think it works, too. Never underestimate the power of our hormones.

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  13. Like Stefanie said, oldest trick in the book. I don't know what bothers me more; the fact that companies think Americans are stupid enough to fall for these tactics, or the fact that Americans ARE stupid enough to fall for these tactics. :-)

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    1. Ha! It's depressing on many levels, isn't it, Laurie? As a man, I think I'm much more susceptible to these cheap ploys than women are.

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  14. What did you read first - The article or the poster in the picture.

    Be honest. :)

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    1. Ha! Well in my case, I wrote the article and then found the picture when I was done. Amazing what you find when you type "Sex Sells" into Flickr.

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  15. Early on, I taught our son that marketers aim their pitches at the people they are trying to sell to. In his case, the commercials always showed how great the latest toy was, and how much better his life would be if he bought this toy. Once you get up to the late-teen demographic, the marketers use sex and sometimes humor. Sex sells. It doesn't have to be blatant sexual exploitation, but how many times have you seen beer commercials with a bunch of overweight, beer belly people telling you how beer tastes great? No, you see a bunch of healthy men and women peddling the beer. Apparently the government is learning. They are not showing an average american overweight person signing up for health care (the ones who really need it). They are showing healthy young models signing up (the ones the government needs to sign up).

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    1. I really wish I'd thought of that point, Bryce. The models are exactly the type of people that these campaigns want to sign up: young, healthy, low cost people. And because they're so pretty, maybe we think that if we sign up, we might be healthier, and more fit, and more attractive, too.

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  16. All things being equal, I would rather buy insurance from a pleasing to the eye female model, than some hairy guy.

    But, it really doesn't matter for insurance.

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    1. Ha! Yeah, all things being equal, having the salesperson be easy on the eyes is a nice option.

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  17. I absolutely HATE the marketing that has been pushed to enroll people under the ACA. If it were such an amazing opportunity, marketing shouldn't be as much of a worry, nor should it be as sad and desperate as it has been.

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    1. Well, that argument cuts both ways. If the ACA were such a bad idea, then why would organizations have to give away free booze with models to convince young people not to sign up?

      I'd say both sides are using the marketing ploys at their disposal.

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  18. I had no idea there was such a big marketing push for health care. I mean there are ads for the biggies, but these seem kind of rather low brow? Interesting times...

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    1. Very interesting, Tonya. I think things will calm down in a few years after we have a better idea of how the ACA will work.

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  19. This is super interesting. Makes total sense, but not really what you'd expect. I think more young people will sign up as the tax penalties get higher. I think this year's is $95 if you live in a state that's expanding medicaid? That's less than a plan in my area would cost per month. I'm about to get a tidbit political, and I apologize, but I'm kind of disappointed that this plan got so compromised. It's almost exactly the same plan that McCain ran on in 2008 that everyone scoffed at. And I think there were legitimate reasons for all the scoffing. I think the original version Obama ran on was a much more viable solution, financially and for the good of the people.

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    1. It's not really my favorite idea for a plan, but it's about progress, not perfection. At least I hope it's progress.

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