President Obama appeared on the popular Funny Or Die
comedic talk show series "Between Two Ferns" earlier this week and was met with some derision from his political adversaries. If you have not seen the series, it is a web-based program that is hosted by Zach Galifianakis
that is designed to spoof the high-brow one-on-one interview programs commonly found on public access television (for more on the Obama interview, please listen to the podcast episode
that parallels this article).
One can have any number of opinions on the Obama administration, but the president's appearance on "Between The Ferns" represented a marketing-oriented ambassadorial moment - meant specifically to promote the Healthcare.gov web site to the youth demographic. Consider the challenge facing the communications staff at the White House: younger Americans are not necessarily thinking about health insurance, and many of them remain without coverage - and to make matters more challenging, younger demographics are increasingly consuming more fragmented media. They simply are not tuning in to the traditional television venues that President Obama and other politicians have been utilizing to amplify their given message.
When White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about Obama's "Between Two Ferns" appearance, he had this to say: "I think what it says is that gone are the days when your broadcast, or yours, or yours can reach everybody that we need to reach."
Carney also noted that the Funny Or Die domain was the referring property to the Healthcare.gov site. And there it is. The objective was outreach to the hard-to-reach, and the audience responded. The outcome may very well be a marketing case study.
While it is not fully apparent how many Americans saw the interview - as it was amplified on television news channels (beyond the immediate measure of digital video plays), CNN reported
that Healthcare.gov received a 40 percent jump in traffic after the Funny Or Die appearance and estimated that video viewership figure at 13 million people.
By these counts, it appears that President Obama achieved his goal, and he did it with humor and with an embrace of alternative thinking. It was a smart media strategy and it worked.