Print Politics

How Print Advertising Could Help the Health Care Debate

There is such thing as too much information.

In a recent video for, Ze Frank said that we're not having a health care reform debate, we're having a health care argument. And what happens in an argument? Upset people say a lot of different things, many of which are untrue, half-true, or contradictory.

More and more, it seems that the average person is feeling overwhelmed by the issue of health care reform. So much conflicting information is zipping around out there that people don't know what to believe, and more than that, they're not sure what the point was to begin with.

A recent article on AdAge pointed to the crux of the problem – the White House is trying to sell a product – health care reform – unfortunately, the team that made the Obama brand so strong in 2008 is now doing a terrible job advertising this latest offering. Marketing 101: nobody's going to buy if they don't know what you're selling.

Interestingly, in this case, the marketing problem is not one of lack of information, it's one of too much information. Pundits screaming on the news, thousands of opinion-based blogs throwing in their two cents, spammy email campaigns gone awry – this may, in fact, be one of the first concrete examples of a weakness in online advertising: the product disappears under a avalanche of information and conjecture.

In at least this one area, print advertising still holds the standard. Keep it simple, stupid! as they say. When advertising in print, a creative marketing team is forced to synthesize information, to treat space like gold and value every inch of it simply because there's not much of it.

A clean, simple print campaign could do wonders to help the coherency of this debate. A poster, a mailer, a brochure, and ta-da! You've got your whole argument down to a couple of lines of ink on paper. And this is no oversimplification, this is a thesis statement – something that all arguments, however complex, can be boiled down to.

One of print's greatest strengths is its spatial limitations. These force us to think, synthesize, and write words like arrows that pierce the heart of any matter. The only question is: which side will harness this strength first, cut through all the babble, and make their point on paper?

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