Review: Health Care for America Now “What if”

I didn’t plan a review today. I was thinking of some more esoteric posts about ad-making, but then I saw these ads. Health care has been in the news a lot lately, and I’ve been thinking, what’s been so hard about getting this passed? I think that when it’s polled, 60% of Americans are in favor of health care reform. So what’s the problem?

As I thought about it, I realized the problem is one of definitions. What does health care reform mean? Insuring the uninsured? Lowering what we pay? Streamlining the system? Giving patients better access and better care? Taking on insurance companies? I think the answer is yes. And that’s the problem. It’s an issue that means different things to different people, so talking about “health care reform” in general doesn’t translate into support in the specific. With so many big money interests at stake, it’s no wonder that it’s been so hard to move this issue forward.

Form (on a scale A-F): C

Standard political ad stuff. Looking at the ad a second time, is that the best they could for a doctor’s office? Should I even worry about that?

There was a saying around film school, “If they’re noticing the boom in the shot, it doesn’t matter that it’s there. It means you’ve lost the audience.” Translated, that means: If the spot was working, I wouldn’t have time to wonder about the doctor’s office, I’d be too engrossed with the story, the message, my own emotions to care or notice.

Is this the best they could do? Its just kinda generic. The music, the visuals — nothing really stands out. Nothing get my attention; there’s no sugar coating to get me to care, to get me to listen. The copy technique of “what if,” is widely used, but feels like a gimmick here; it doesn’t really connect with the rest of the ad.

Function (on a scale A-F): C

Going to my earlier point, this ad does an adequate job of breaking down the issues around health care reform — keep your coverage, change plans, public option, lower costs, keep insurance companies honest. Got it. Those elements are really important to transforming that general support for reform into concrete support for this reform.

But will I remember it? Ben Smith of Politico says in his post that the ad is “pressing the public option by casting it as a way to stick it to greedy insurance executives.” Maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m too cynical and jaded, but does this feel like sticking to greedy insurance executives? I’ve been angry. I’ve felt outrage (watch the classic documentaries “Roger & Me” or “Harlan County, USA” to get a taste of outrage), and frankly, this ad doesn’t make me feel angry or outraged. Do you? Let me know. Post a comment.

Now, some of that is due to a “heard it all before effect”. We’ve heard all about how evil insurance companies are, we’ve already incorporated it into our data banks, this isn’t anything new. It just doesn’t get us aroused in the same way it would hearing it for the first time.

But of a lot of the empty feeling comes from the ad itself. Will a viewer’s attention even make it to that end part, the important part, to soak in that message?

Final Grade (on a scale A-F): C

Standard stuff, makes some important points, but it really doesn’t do anything to help it stick. With enough numbing repetition the message gets through. Maybe. But this is going to be a crowded battlefield, the other side is likely to throw some smoke bombs of their own to confuse the issue (big government health care, less choice and so on), so the fight for the hearts and minds of voters is on. It’s attrition warfare, army on army, head to head, and that’s not the kind of fight you want.

Where’s the emotion? There’s enough around this issue to be outraged over. Is this outrage? If so, it’s so generic, so general, there’s no connection. Is it trying to make a rational argument (which would be really nice if people were actually rational)? This ad just kinda sits there, there’s no soul, no feeling behind it, its paint by numbers and ultimately empty. Whether that’s by design or poor execution I’m not sure, but the result is the same.

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2 Responses to “Review: Health Care for America Now “What if””

  1. Rodney Wooters Says:


    I read an interesting statistic. Even though the 60something percent noted in your message favor healthcare reform 70something percent say they are happy with their current healthcare situation. I am not a health care policy advocate and who knows how either question was asked and framed. But it makes for an interesting argument.

    Not interested in debating either side as I just wanted to throw the other statistic out to you!


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