The words “health insurance” don’t immediately conjure imagery of
cute cartoon characters with large fonts and soft colours.
But this is Oscar, New York entrepreneur and venture capitalist Joshua Kushner’s new health care startup. He’s launched a new ad campaign to introduce the provider, “Hi, we’re Oscar, a new kind of insurance company.” The name of their website is your reply: HiOscar.com.
Founded with Microsoft’s former director of health care Kevin Nazemi and former McKinsey & Company computer scientist Mario Schlosser, the team amassed $US40 million in investment and grabbed talent from places like Google and Tumblr.
Their goal was to take advantage of the way the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) changed health insurance marketing, from business-to-business to business-to-consumer. Industry mainstays like Aetna are now working with ad agencies to change their images, but Oscar has the advantage of starting without all that legacy “insurance” baggage.
The official New York state health insurance marketplace recently underwent a makeover, from a horrid interface out of the 1990s to something more user-friendly, but Oscar manages to be even more user-friendly. Much more, actually.
“Health care should make a headache go away, not give someone a headache,” said Oscar co-founder Nazemi in an interview with Business Insider.
With the goal of “humanising health insurance,” the team partnered with the New York agency Design and Acquisition (DandA), led by former president of marketing for Disney, M.T. Carney.
Kushner took the name Oscar from his great-grandfather. The team chose it because they wanted to personalise something most people hate dealing with due to its frustrating complexities.
Oscar VP of Marketing Veronica Parker-Hahn and DandA decided they would take the anti-stock photo approach. They came up with a diverse cast of characters getting attacked (in a charming way, of course) by bees, bears, and exploding potholes.
Their copy ads rely on large font, with messages like, “Health insurance that won’t make your head explode. And if does, you’re covered.”
Oscar, which launches on Jan. 1, covers New York’s downstate market — the five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland. Ads are appearing in the subway, online banners, and the streaming music service Pandora. They also have a ground campaign in neighborhoods with a high rate of the uninsured, like Washington Heights in Manhattan and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
Their website looks great on mobile, tablets, and is shockingly simple.
The campaign is engaging, but runs the risk of seeming gimmicky. Nazemi insisted the concern is unfounded when combined with their services.
“We’re not using technology for technology’s sake. We’re using it to make things simple,” he said.
Oscar has 40,000 providers and 83 hospitals, and is heavily promoting its “Teladoc” feature. A client can place a call at any time of day and receive a guaranteed call-back from an Oscar doctor within an hour.
Nazemi said that he and his team have been thrilled with the response since Obamacare went live earlier this month. According to him, their phone lines keep ringing and their site has gotten tens of thousands of hits each week.
Without revealing numbers, Nazemi said Oscar is “well on track” to exceed their goals when the coverage launches at the start of next year.
It will be interesting to see if Oscar registers with New Yorkers, and if the company avoids becoming another insurance company that just happens to have a cool site and funny commercials.
But it is clear that the team is aiming for nothing short of an industry revolution, and will want to grow if successful.
“We obviously don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Nazemi, “but it’s like that old saying. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
You can check out the current video from DandA, which is kind of like a less-violent Happy Tree Friends. Four more videos are on the way.
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