Health Plans Play Up the Personal in Video, TV Advertising

Highmark Health and Aetna Inc. have separately launched new ad campaigns within the last year — to significant success, the plans report — with a focus on patient empowerment and the member’s perspective. One industry insider says video should be a strong part of any plan’s ad or educational campaign, but not enough health plans use it.

This August, Pennsylvania-based Highmark launched its regional “Living Proof” campaign to be used dually in both the insurer division and at Allegheny Health Network (AHN), the provider side of its business, according to Cindy Donohoe, Highmark’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. The company’s market research indicated that people are looking for personal information about the health care experience.

“We looked for what would stand us apart,” Donohoe tells AIS Health. “And we also looked at what the competition is doing. We wanted something fresh, relevant and about the customers. What I love best about our approach, is it’s not about us, it’s about them.” In the Living Proof campaign, “the members are the heroes. It’s their stories. It’s not about us.”

The ads feature members with a story to tell, usually found via a suggestion from nurses or care navigators. Video is shot live, without any rehearsal, sometimes on the same day that the patient is asked to participate. The result is advertising with a documentary style. It comes across as storytelling. “It’s really raw, so authentic,” Donohoe says. “It’s showing the human side of health care.” The insurer ran the ads on local TV channels and the company’s websites.

Highmark tested the ads “on the back end” to measure the impact, awareness and perceptions of the brand, Donohoe says. Unaided awareness went up 50% on the health system side, and new appointments for AHN doubled year over year due to the campaign, according to Donohoe.

It’s harder to measures a video’s success for a health plan because enrollment occurs only once a year, she says. But the “complete rate” for Living Proof videos viewed online — the number of people who opened the video and viewed it in its entirety — on the health plan’s website went from 25% to 85%. Also, “for the first time in our history, we saw more social engagement and sharing organically. People would share [the videos] and we didn’t have to pay to get into their news feeds,” Donohoe says.

On Dec. 13, Highmark said its AHN unit had won three advertising awards for Living Proof: one from Clio Awards, an international competition for creative business, in the health and wellness category; another from *Modern Healthcare *magazine’s annual IMPACT Awards in the digital marketing category; and an OBIE award in the experiential category.

Aetna’s new ad campaign, launched in May, has the tag line, “You don’t join us, we join you.”

“We wanted to focus on the fact that we recognize and care about each person’s individual needs and goals and we will join with them to help them achieve those goals,” Aetna spokesperson Ethan Slavin tells AIS Health. The campaign was launched nationwide via TV, radio, social media, video and billboards.

“Most people only deal with their health insurer when something bad happens: when you or a family member becomes ill or faces health challenges. We believe that we could win hearts by establishing Aetna as a company that supports people in achieving their health ambitions, in their own way,” Slavin says.

“We understand that people want to be in control at all stages of life, and have a goal, whether that was having a baby, getting back on the court after surgery, playing with the grandkids, losing weight, reducing stress, or running a half marathon,” he says. “The sense of pride and joy at achieving those health goals is a powerful and defining emotion.”

Slavin says Aetna had “an amazing response” to the ads. In addition to its video messaging, Aetna used a multi-channel approach that drove people to its website, The website contained Aetna-produced video and traditional content, such as infographics and articles aimed at showing customers what Aetna meant by “joining them.” The health plan continued the conversation on social media, spreading the word about its hub content and campaign message.

Additionally, Aetna partnered with CNN to create a custom video content series named “American Health Ambitions — Lessons From Communities on a Journey to Better Health,” Slavin says, telling the stories of people from Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Houston as they strive to reach their health goals.

Kristin Rodriguez, chief knowledge officer for the Health Plan Alliance, which brings together provider-sponsored and independent health plans, says the use of videos is “definitely growing” because health plans are becoming more aware of how consumers want to get information: quickly, easily and in a variety of formats, especially mobile. Videos are used by plans to complement more traditional packets they send out in the mail. After customers become members, plans use videos to leverage information at every point in the lifecycle, she says.

“In short, what we’re seeing with the health plans at the alliance is a focus on the customer relationship,” Rodriguez says. “Videos can be a very powerful tool.” But less than half of alliance member plans are using video, she says, “and we would love to see more plans looking at it as a way to support the customer experience.”

Emily Connor, senior social content manager at marketing agency Media Logic, says another reason to use video is that Google gives sites with video extra weight in search results. In addition, people who watch videos stay on a page longer.

by Diana Manos

Adapted from the 12/25/17 issue of AIS’s Health Plan Week

Published by AIS Health
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