It’s just not businesses that use content marketing; sometimes it’s the president. President Obama’s push for nationwide health care recently used a comedic video to boost its chances. Did it work?
The skit seen ’round the web.
It looks like it did.
His appearance on Zack Galifianakis’s Funny or Die “talk show” entitled nearly led the national news cycle for a week, with some praising it, some criticizing it. But then, that’s politics, isn’t it?
In case the show being on Funny or Die didn’t give it away, Between Two Ferns is pure comedy, typically featuring Galifianakis as the worst interviewer ever, asking a slew of awkward and inappropriate questions of his increasingly-agitated guests.
He’s the online equivalent of your grandmother interrupting Christmas dinner to ask you if your constipation has improved any.”
So why the hell would the President choose to promote the ACA go on such a farce of a program? Simple — because he knew it would work. Half of Obama’s appeal is his laid-back charm and affable sense of humor, and he knew by utilizing that he would get a lot more attention for his cause than simply stating the facts in a dry, professional manner.
In fact, he barely touched upon the facts. The six-minute sketch started with three and a half minutes of back-and-forth insult comedy, with no mention of the ACA whatsoever. The two were clearly working to keep a fickle audience entertained, and at ease about the idea of a politician invading their funny. Galifianakis maintains his idiotic and insulting persona throughout, while Obama plays the straight man who gets more annoyed with the clown after every sentence. Some sample dialogue:
Galifianakis: “It must stink that you can’t run (for President) three times.”
Obama: “No, I think it’s a good idea. If I ran a third time, it would be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie.”
And then later:
Obama: “Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act?”
Galifianakis: “Oh yeah, I heard about that, that’s the thing that doesn’t work.”
Since Galifianakis is clearly playing a moron, he can make fun of the product being marketed and not take away from the actual marketing. His insults and over-the-top excuses for not signing up (“I don’t have a phone, I’m off the grid, I don’t want you people looking at my texts”) don’t detract from the facts that the President is trying to get across. In addition, he notably quiets down when Obama talks about the ACA, particularly when highlighting the three methods people can sign up for the service (website, phone number, or in-person). The content may be 95% jokes, but the 5% that’s pure information was never overshadowed, not should it ever have been.
Honestly, aside from the info on how to sign up, plus a gag where Obama implores Galifianakis to sign up and have a doctor look at the nasty spider bite he suffered over four months ago, there actually wasn’t a ton of information in this video. That’s a good thing. Obama’s appealing to young people on the Internet, a combination that typically results in the shortest attention span possible. So he kept the educational portion of his program short and sweet, which his audience no doubt appreciated. His remark that insurance would probably cost them less than their cell phone bill probably made many an ear perk up too.
However, he failed to reach the lucrative “teens in love with hundred-year-old rotary phones” market.
If Obama or Galifianakis had bored them for even one second, they would’ve clicked away and headed over to YouTube to watch videos of cats falling down. Clearly, that did not happen — since the video was posted on March 11, it’s been viewed over 20 million times, and on the Funny or Die scale (their version of Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down,) it’s scored way more Funnies than Dies.
As far as its main intent — get people to sign up for health care — it more than accomplished that as well. Healthcare.gov reported a 40% jump in trafficimmediately after the video went up, and a huge majority of the referrals were from FunnyOrDie.com. As for the 7.1 million people who signed up for healthcare? Close to 3 million of them did so in March alone, meaning that the Galifianakis video wasn’t just great content, it was great timing as well.
President Obama proved beyond any doubt that, if you want to market something important to today’s online generation, entertainment sprinkled with just the most basic facts is the way to go. Once you’ve hooked them that way, they’ll figure out the rest.