Political ad experts critique first OFA-backed Obamacare ad

Rachel Rose Hartman

In Organizing for Action's new television ad about the president's health care law, a man of indeterminate ethnicity appears to be filling out his taxes. A "FACT" about the benefits of Obamacare flashes across the screen. An assumed small-business owner counts out change.

The "Impact of Obamacare" ad, released this week and airing nationwide, is the first in a seven-figure series of an ad campaign OFA is planning this summer in the runup to this fall's health care law enrollment. (OFA is the nonprofit advocacy group born out of the president's 2012 campaign organization, Obama for America.)

Since Obama signed the health care law in 2010, television ad spending around Obamacare has been dominated by the law's opponents, roughly five to one—$400 million to $75 million—through May 21 of this year, according to Kantar Media CMAG. OFA is expected to join Health and Human Services, which already re-released a pro-Obamacare ad this year, as one of the largest promoters of Obamacare this year.

The new OFA ad highlights three supposed cost-saving benefits of the health care law: free preventive care; rebates; and the government assuming 50 percent of the cost of coverage for small businesses.

But is the ad effective? And is it a good opening pitch for a law that has been fiercely criticized and the sustainability for which now hinges on the enrollment later this year of young, healthy men?

Yahoo News asked several political ad experts to share their thoughts:

Fred Davis, GOP media consultant, founder of Strategic Perceptions and creator of the infamous 'Demon Sheep' and 'I am not a witch' political ads:

The president is badly losing the PR battle over Obamacare, and they respond with a snoozer of an ad that will get zero attention? If their goal was to inspire young, healthy men to sign up, I'm afraid main inspiration here will be for the viewer to change the channel.

Steve Murphy, Democratic political consultant and partner at MVAR Media:

Almost a quarter of those who oppose Obamacare are Democrats who think it doesn't go far enough. This ad will appeal to those voters as well as those whose opinions aren't firmly in one camp or the other.

John Brabender, GOP political consultant and managing partner of BrabenderCox:

I don't think they use actual names of people that I saw in there. ... I thought it would have been more sort of credible if they would have done that. But they didn't. So I wonder how real those people are. You know, I'm going to be like most voters on ads—they're skeptical until you prove me wrong. It just seems very generic. It's just trying to get ahead of the criticism that's likely to come, and I think ultimately what they're trying to do is set the groundwork to at least muddy the waters so that people say they're not sure what to believe.

They're going to have to make it on a very emotional basis and relevant to [young men's] lives. In some way, they're going to have to get these people to project and understand that there are things that happen in their lives now that are going to have consequences later on and do that in an emotional way and show them that invincibility is a myth.

Elizabeth Wilner, political media expert and vice president of Kantar Media CMAG:

Critics of the law have spent hundreds of millions on ads containing the very simple message, “Obamacare is bad.” You can’t combat that with advertising that merely says, “Obamacare is good.” The ad-maker could have opted for separate ads playing up each of the benefits individually. But through split screens and brevity, they created a single spot that identifies multiple types of beneficiaries and also leaves an impression even with viewers who wouldn’t identify that the law helps a lot of people.

That said, young, healthy men are among the least likely to be seeing the ad because they tend to watch less live TV.