President Obama’s efforts to sign up the National Basketball Association and the National Football Association to educate viewers about how to get coverage under Obamacare during the critical period this fall have hit some snags. But the administration isn’t giving up on finding famous spokespeople to help make the law’s requirements legible to ordinary Americans. The Hill reported today that “The president dropped by a White House meeting with singer Jennifer Hudson and actress Amy Poehler, as well as representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys and Bon Jovi, an administration official said. Other attendees included officials from the Grammy Awards and the Funny or Die website, which is a brainchild of actor Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay. Representatives for several other TV shows and entertainment companies also attended. All of the attendees have ‘expressed a personal interest in educating young people about the Affordable Care Act,’ the White House official said.”
But fame alone isn’t enough to make the ads effective. So here are three the Obama administration might want to consider as it thinks about how to use its celebrity supporters in endorsement spots.
1. The ads should actually explain what viewers need to do to get insured: This very funny ad for the “Draw The Line” campaign both relies on the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to show a whole bunch of actors spreading the word about a new reproductive rights action, and makes sure to clearly explain how non-famous supporters can sign up, too. If you use famous people just to enhance the idea that you’re famous, you’re wasting an opportunity:
2. Align your celebrity supporters’ brand and their message: It’s important to think carefully about what, specifically, appeals to audiences about each celebrity you’re enlisting, and to match that up to the information or idea you want to get across. It can be as simple as referencing their work, as in this ad where Carole King tells viewers “Elect Ed Markey, and you’ll have a friend in the Senate”:
Or it can be a general as this cheeky Obama ad for first-time voters in which Lena Dunham compares casting your first ballot to losing your virginity:
Or Clint Eastwood’s spot for Mitt Romney:
3. Emphasize what celebrities have in common with the people they’re speaking to: One of the reasons that actors and musicians are actually excellent choices to talk about Obamacare is that they’re contract employees, doing temporary work for studios, networks, and labels on a project-by-project basis, rather than full-time employees who get health care through their employers. So even though they may be richer and more famous than the audiences to which they’re speaking, a lot of the folks Obama wants to sign up as Obamacare endorsers may be buying health insurance on the open market, just like the ordinary Americans the administration wants to reach, in a way that’s not true for NFL and NBA players. So ads that use them should have these celebrities talking about sorting through options and discussing what they want for their families. And while this War on Women ad doesn’t quite do that, it captures some lovely moments, like Beyonce talking about the appeal of Obama’s backstory or Jane Lynch literally at a loss for words about the potential loss of abortion rights that make these very famous women sound like actual humans in a way that’s quite effective: