Why Pajamas Boy and ‘ho-surance’ won’t appeal to young people

Written by . Posted in Featured, Issue Watch

Published on December 18, 2013

OFA sent this email solicitation out yesterday — they want you on their list of “founding members,” and they need your money to stop groups that “score political points, no matter who gets hurt in the process.”


I just wish they’d had been more solicitous about “who gets hurt” when they dress this poor actor up like he’s a grown child, in service of the cause of promoting Obamacare to young people.


I understand this idea that the OFA people want to market to young adults — they have to — but I doubt this is the way to go about it. I haven’t seen anyone react to this promotion positively — and I say that after going back as far as I could stomach on the #gettalking hashtag that OFA is using to promote it.

The reaction to this promotion has ranged from “That’s a hoax, right?”, to outright accusations that it’s a hoax created by opponents of Obamacare, to probing questions about the poor guy’s manhood. With apologies to the sanctimonious liberals I ran into on Twitter last night, it’s still funny to demand someone’s “man card” in appropriate circumstances, even when Obama is doing a propaganda campaign. A grown man in a onesie — that’s a “man card” offense.

The funnier memes that conservatives created went less after his effeminacy than his infantile appearance. Two- and three-year-old kids wear footie pajamas — 27-year-olds don’t wear footie pajamas.

obamacareI didn’t score well on that Millennial quiz that someone posted recently, but I suspect young people don’t typically prefer to think of themselves as grown children, nor as keg-standing beer-swillers, nor as promiscuous tarts ready to jump into bed with whatever sketchy guy shows them some attention (“Oh, look! I have my free birth control!”) — yet this is precisely how health insurance (of all things) is now being marketed to them.

What negative reaction there has been to this ad and to the “brosurance-hosurance” series created by the Colorado exchange, I think, has to do with the fact that we have a bunch of mid-40s mid-life crisis types, who think they’re hip and get the youngsters. It’s hard to imagine anything more pathetic than that.

CaptureMcKay Coppins’ Buzzfeed piece on this was really quite funny — he begins:

Is there any battle in contemporary politics being waged with more indignity and less prowess than the tug-of-war for twentysomethings over Obamacare?

If there is, I can’t think of it.

I remember looking at a group of my fellow college freshmen at orientation realizing in one moment that we really were all grown-ups now — with complete freedom and suddenly crushing responsibility. We all had to start doing the things our parents had done earlier to get ahead and help us along in life. Life wasn’t just endless amusement anymore.

Sure, there were a few safeguards, but the days of being led around by the hand and told what to do were essentially over — we were all on our own. It was time to struggle and survive and succeed. No matter how good the habits you’e formed in childhood, it takes some rapid adjustment to get into that phase of life — to start behaving in a professional and serious manner, for example. I think the adjustment is actually harder today than it used to be, because fewer people are growing up with good habits.

So it’s just my hunch, but I’d expect the least appealing kind of ad is the one that tells you you’re still a child. If I wanted to appeal to millennial customers or voters, I’d treat them a bit more seriously. The original OFA campaign with this same actor kind of did that — albeit with some slightly lame humor. Here’s a guy with his own place, who looks like he has a job and a life of his own, in an awkward confrontation with his parents that most young people could probably relate to.

With young people disproportionately avoiding Obamacare, I guess this more subtle, less click-able approach has been abandoned in favor of attention-getting gimmicks. Good luck with that.