Everyone understands that advertising helps sell products and that was the top way to sell health plans through the public exchanges. But looking back on the first open enrollment, just what worked and what lessons were learned to raise the number of enrollees further for 2015?

Speaking at the National Health Insurance Exchange Summit in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Jason Madrak, the head of marketing for AccessHealthCT, Connecticut’s state-run exchange, said that paid media matters and it was “mission critical.” It was a way for Connecticut officials to get in the door and start the conversation with consumers.

It was important that the advertising, which reached what he called saturation levels, was a call to action – not just letting people know about AccessHealthCT but providing consumers specific things to do.

In the District of Columbia, that paid advertising was aimed at overcoming the skepticism in the community, one which didn’t want to talk about health insurance, and then getting that audience to act, said Linda Wharton Boyd, director of external affairs and stakeholder engagement at the DC Health Benefit Exchange.
In DC, exchange officials used local people and local landmarks in their ads. For example, Ben’s Chili Bowl, a well-known restaurant in the city – whose famous diners include President Barack Obama – was used in some ads. Just like in Connecticut, you couldn’t go somewhere in DC and not see something advertising the exchange, Boyd explained.

On the national stage, Enroll America’s, a multi-state grassroots campaign to help enroll millions of uninsured Americans, president Anne Filipic said that her organization didn’t have the budget for national television saturation so instead focused on online advertising, spending just more than $7 million. “[Digital advertising] was something we could make more targeted, and track,” she said.

Through that tracking, Enroll America learned that messaging was important, making the ads “someone like me,” she notes. While there was power in that, Filipic, previously the White House’s deputy director of public engagement, said Enroll America found it was much powerful to instead provide consumers with tools to provide a customized shopping experience, such as helping to figure out their subsidy. After changing their homepage image from people to tools, the clickthrough rate dramatically increased.

This story first appeared at HIX

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