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Will the ACA Finally Jumpstart Hispanic Health Marketing?

Hispanic Health Marketing and Advertising has never been a substantial line item for Corporate America. Will this change with the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare)? Hear what multicultural Health marketing experts have to say...


Hispanic Health Marketing and Advertising has never been a substantial line item for Corporate America. Will this change with the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare)? To answer this question Portada’s editorial team interviewed health marketing and advertising experts.

Photo: Ep_jhu. CC License.
Photo: Ep_jhu. CC License.

A look at the top 50 2012 Hispanic market advertisers as compiled by Kantar Media, reveals that pharmaceutical companies and health insurance providers do not belong to the big ad spenders. In fact, pharma and health companies are notorious for their absence among the top Hispanic ad-categories. Genoma Lab International’s position as number 1 in the Kantar Media ranking with US$ 255.6 million is misleading , because the majority of Genoma’s advertising is on cosmetics and well-being products, not on pharma.  The other health/pharma organization among the top 50 is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at place 39 (US$ 35.7 million Hispanic ad spend in 2012). Are the pharma and health categories finally going to grow substantially as a result of the ACA?

Under the Affordable Care Act, each state has an Exchange – a website designed to help people shop for and buy a health plan. For example, in New York state the New York Health Benefit Exchange begun taking applications on October 1 for coverage that begins January 1, 2014. It is predicted that approximately 15 million previously uninsured persons will now be able to get insurance. Hispanics should amount to a sizable share of them.

Health insurers like Nationwide and Wellpoint have kicked off marketing blitzes to rise their profile in order to be selected by consumers at the health exchanges, however none of these efforts have been Hispanic specific.

Asked on whether we will see a substantial increase in Hispanic marketing expenditures, Steve Millerman, CEO of Prime Access, says that “there is no question that the ACA will have an impact on healthcare companies increasing their spend on the US Hispanic market. However, I don’t believe the ACA will be the catalyst to make this happen on a significant level. Many of the key challenges and reasons why the healthcare industry has not fully embraced multicultural marketing to date will remain the same pre and post the ACA taking full effect.” Millerman, who previously in his career led the Multicultural Marketing unit at Novartis, adds that :the ACA is not an overnight event ; it will be a gradual transition over years.”

What players should be at the forefront of the ACA Hispanic marketing push?

What players should be at the forefront of the ACA Hispanic marketing push? According to Millerman, “all insurance companies, especially those with high regional access in key Hispanic markets, should certainly be at the forefront. For pharma companies, the opportunity is phenomenal. I would envision that those companies that have already activated their Hispanic engagement will be making adjustments to fully understand the opportunity and invest. But the key question remains, what is the opportunity? On a macro level, yes, we’ll have millions coming into the system, but when we break it down into sub-segments based on therapeutic areas, brands, age groups, potential co-pay amounts and coverage, the opportunity may not be as large for some brands versus others based on the patient profile most suitable for the medications at hand. This is no longer about macro-targeting but micro-targeting. ”

Marketing Mix: Big role for Digital Media…

According to Millerman, “the marketing mix should remain unchanged overall, and should reflect the necessary range to reach the target consumer profile regardless of pre- or post- the ACA. I foresee digital to play the biggest role given a lower price point vs TV, a quicker  response  to change, and the easiest to consistently fuel with information. As people will want to and will need to learn more about the ACA and their respective plans, digital communication will play the most significant part to address the consumer needs.” Marcelo Rodriguez, Managing Partner of Grupo Parada, a Hispanic digital media consulting firm, tells Portada, that digital media will play a crucial role in  enrolling uninsured Latinos to the healthcare system under the ACA. Rodriguez notes that “enrolling Latinos in the healthcare system is a win-win situation for healthcare providers. There are more than 10 million uninsured Latinos in the US. Many of them only seek out medical attention in emergency situations. It is more cost-effective for both parties to engage in preventive measures. By educating Latinos on preventative methods healthcare providers can avoid the rising financial and opportunity costs of emergency care. They can begin this process by making healthcare information more culturally and readily available via digital media. There is an increasing demand for information on health related topics and keywords in Spanish within the United States specially local information.”

…are pharma digital media campaigns increasing?

Mathew Granish, Digital Media Director at Prime Access, the agency led by Millerman that last year was acquired by Global Advertising Strategies.  notes that he has seen increased digital media buying activity among pharma brands. Prime Access and Global Advertising Strategies work on over 30 pharmaceutical products across leading therapeutic categories (cardiovascular, oncology, infectious diseases, vaccines, etc) and some of the world’s largest global brands. Among those are Merck & Co., Inc. and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. “We are seeing increased activity for our brands. There is more emphasis on patient education / disease awareness / prevention, given the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but we are definitely seeing an increase in digital media for pharma across the board.” As an example Granish cites  a campaign aimed at US Hispanics for a diabetes medication. “The campaign will have branded and unbranded elements, so as we are promoting a specific product, we are also educating the healthcare consumer on the condition itself.”

Not a panacea

The ACA should not be seen as the panacea of all Hispanic healthcare marketing ills.This is partly because Pharma marketers have been hesitant to invest in Hispanic outreach  because they have not been able to measure the ROI from their efforts. Agencies and marketers need to offer those in-depth analytics to demonstrate the validity of the business case for each campaign.  Prime Access’ Millerman concludes: “The ACA will unquestionably contribute to the business case of increasing spend within the US Hispanic space, but we should not disregard the fact that even with the high Hispanic populations now, the healthcare industry has not leveraged Hispanic marketing. The bottom line is there are many other variables that play a role in building a strong case on why one should invest in the healthcare environment. Understanding healthcare and understanding Hispanic healthcare are critical components to building a strong business case for clients. The high number of stakeholders in the system, life cycle considerations and the importance of strong analytics adds to the complexity of this dynamic, which is drastically different from other industries.”



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