“Sticking” the Message about Medicare Benefits

Despite the increasing numbers of seniors going online, print newspaper readership continues to be popular among older adults, with Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation representing more than half of all print readers.

In North Carolina, the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) used sticker ads on traditional print newspapers to get the word out about their program and the money-saving benefits available to those struggling with Medicare costs.

What did they do?

A sample sticker ad telling folks where to call for help with Medicare prescriptions

A sample sticker ad

Many newspapers allow advertisers to post removable sticker ads to reach their audience with time-sensitive messages. The stickers appear on the newspaper’s front page, and can be easily peeled off and saved by readers.

The NC SHIIP utilized this approach to circulate a 3×3” ad that showcased the SHIIP and told Medicare beneficiaries where to go if they needed assistance with paying for their Medicare coverage. The SHIIP utilized zip code data to identify pockets of individuals potentially eligible for, but missing out on, the Medicare subsidies, narrowing down to focus on 12 counties/areas across the state.

They also looked at targeting specific dates to run the ads—Sundays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day—that coincided with when people often hit the Part D coverage gap, and may have caregivers visiting who might read and/or pass along the information.

What was the result?

The ads results in a spike in calls to the SHIIP for roughly three weeks after they appeared in the paper.

What are the challenges to this outreach approach?

The NC SHIIP cautioned that there are some considerations to employing these types of ads:

  • First, rural area newspapers may not be able to produce such ads; the agency may need to look at targeting areas with larger newspapers or those that are part of a larger conglomerate.
  • The cost of running such ads can vary widely. In one rural area of NC, the cost was $800 for a one-day print run, whereas another area cost ~$2,000.
  • Advanced planning is crucial. Many times, the popular holidays/dates may already have ads booked; in 2018, the SHIIP was not able to secure Mother’s Day, but did manage to reserve ad space far enough in advance for Father’s Day. Starting as early as possible is recommended.
  • When using the zip code data, it is important to reexamine the data each year; NC found that the areas which have the most pockets of potentially eligible beneficiaries has shifted from year to year.

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