Obamacare AdWords: Partisan Outrage Or Public Education?

The phrase “Obamacare” was intentionally concocted by health care opponents to create a negative impression or connotation in an attempt to defeat the program. The phrase stuck and is now widely used by some in the media. That’s all according to Wendell Potter, a former health care industry PR executive who’s written a disturbing book about the industry, its tactics and its political allies on the right. Now the term is at the center of a new dispute over Google advertising.

With the new Congressional Republican majority set on trying to repeal health care, the issue has been in the news quite a bit and is spiking as a search query. Type in the term “obamacare” and this page appears on Google:

The top ad leads to landing page that is official government site HealthCare.gov:

Republicans and health care opponents are up in arms over this PPC ad campaign as a partisan use of tax dollars. The conservative publication The Weekly Standard, for example, says the following:

The brazenness of the Obama administration never ceases to amaze. Try typing ”Obamacare” into Google, and you’ll find that the first entry is now the Obama administration’s www.healthcare.gov. If you don’t particularly like that result, you’ll probably hate the fact that you’re paying for it.

By contrast the Health and Human Services Department sees it as a form of public education and an effort to combat misinformation being promulgated by opponents (who are also buying PPC ads):

“We are using a bunch of search term[s] to help point people to HealthCare.gov. Part of our online efforts to help get accurate information to people about the new law (i.e. also use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and webcasts),” an HHS official confirmed by e-mail.

Who’s right and who’s not?

In 2004 the Bush Administration did something similar, spending almost $10 million on a TV campaign (during an election year) about Medicare. At the time Democratic Senator Kent Conrad raised a similar objection to the advertising:

“While I strongly support educating America’s seniors about the Medicare changes, these ads amount to campaign commercials disguised as public service announcements,” Senator Conrad says. “They are blatantly political, aimed at getting votes and promoting the Administration’s message. They should have been paid for with Bush’s campaign funds, not taxpayer dollars.” The federally funded advertising campaign was created by the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at a cost of $9.5 million and is currently airing nationally on network and cable television.

Advertising by the government about one of its programs is neither unprecedented nor outrageous. I suppose your point of view about whether this is legitimate education or partisan advertising ultimately depends on your specific political sympathies.

Regardless, it’s a recognition of how important search has become in the public discussion and debate about issues and how powerful it can be in shaping perceptions.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: Analysis | Google: AdWords | Top News

Sponsored


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



SearchCap:

Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • berto

    The funny part is that right now, the AdWords keyword tool says that the average CPC is $.05 with average monthly volume of 110k. That would put their monthly budget for that one term under $5k. Compared with the millions it takes to do a TV ad spot, I would say that’s pretty smart.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!

 


 

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide