Barton F. Graf Calls on Agencies to Promote Obamacare Enrollment After Trump Slashed Its Ad Budget

The Coverage Coalition sprang up after 90% cuts

The current administration cut the ACA's signup period in half and slashed its marketing budget by 90 percent.
Coverage Coalition

Few would deny that the American healthcare system remains a confounding beast. But maybe the ad industry can help.

This year’s open enrollment period for the statewide health insurance markets established by the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, but the Trump administration is providing as little information as possible to Americans participating in the program.

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be cutting the ACA’s advertising budget by 90 percent, calling campaigns promoting it “unhelpful.” The administration also reduced the open enrollment period from 12 weeks to six and announced that the healthcare.gov site would be down for 12-hour “maintenance” periods on certain Sundays during that crucial stretch.

Now, Gerry Graf is hoping he and other agency veterans can effectively take the place of the government in promoting its own program. His agency, Barton F. Graf, announced today the launch of the Coverage Coalition, a pro bono project aimed at filling the awareness gap left by the budget cuts.

Graf told Adweek he came up with the idea when a member of his creative department brought the 90 percent cut to his attention.

“We’re good at marketing, so we might be able to fill that in, do our own campaign and get the message out to people who really need that information,” he said.

Coverage Coalition began this week as a website and a series of Facebook posts, and Graf said his team will soon expand the effort to include 50-60 shareable assets including videos and Instagram-friendly GIFs.

The efforts will be aimed at relevant demographics using Facebook and Instagram’s targeting capabilities.

“Once we let people know what we were doing, we picked up a lot of other partners along the way,” Graf said, noting that production company Psyop worked on the GIFs and clips while development group Hook QA assisted with the website and Park Pictures is currently helping with an unspecified portion of the project.

Graf also has spoken with friends in the industry who plan to contribute. He said the Coverage Coalition plans to launch a “big influencer outreach” campaign as well. For now, he encourages all interested creatives with a moment on their hands to create their own assets and submit them via the organization’s email line.

“We’d like the rest of the advertising community to join in and start making stuff as well,” he said.

It’s difficult to have a conversation about much of anything without getting explicitly political, especially a program named after the last president.

But Graf is trying.

“A really important part of this project is that the assets we’re making have to be nonpolitical; they’re really just informational,” he said, adding, “There are just as many Trump supporters who need this information, so you can’t put people off.”

To that point, none of the agency’s current clients will be contributing to this effort.