UnitedHealthcare tops industry TV ad spending in April; payer campaigns take on wellness and prevention

UnitedHealth ad
UnitedHealthcare's top ad in April is part of a branding campaign, launched in 2015, that pokes fun at ICD-10 codes.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to make clear that an organization's total spend is based on media value and may not reflect actual budget. 

The health insurance companies that spent the most on television ads in April are all running campaigns with a heavy focus on wellness and preventative care, using humor and celebrity to get their message across. 

UnitedHealthcare, Humana, and Kasier Permanente were the top three spenders last month, according to iSpot.tv, a real-time TV ad measurement company that offers attention and conversion analytics from 10 million smart TV screens.

"Media spend" is calculated by value and doesn't necessarily represent the actual dollar amount the organization spent, according to the company. The organizations in this article may have received donated or discounted air time.

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UnitedHealthcare spent $4.1 million on television ads in April, running 7 ads 347 times nationwide, according to iSpot TV.

Among the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based payer's spots: Junior high angst set to the tune of Aerosmith's "Walk this Way." The ad touts United's rewards for wellness activities such as walking ... even if doing so embarrasses your daughter. 

The ad is also a continuation of a running national branding campaign, launched in 2015, that pokes fun at ICD-10 codes. This one features W17.89XS: "Other fall from one level to another." And yes, it's a real code. 


  • United's April spend based on media value: $4.1 million
  • Campaign scope: 7 ads ran 347 times nationwide
  • TV ad impressions: 130.9 million
  • Average view rate: 88.76%
  • Ad agency: Leo Burnett
  • Recently aired on: MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle

(Average view rate for the industry was 93% in April, where 88% of views watched the ad through the third quartile.)

Humana, based in Louisville, Kentucky, spent $1.9 million, running 6 ads 458 times on national TV. The health insurer puts an aspirational spin on wellness in its "Great Things are Ahead of You" series.

"It's a good thing you're working with Humana and your doctor to maintain your health," the narrator deadpans. "Because in five days, 10 hours and 2 minutes you are going to be 67."

The boomer-friendly ad drives home the message that the insurance company can help members reach fitness goals, such as hiking in Alaska.  


  • Humana's April spend based on media value: $1.9 million
  • Campaign scope: 6 ads ran 458 times on national TV
  • Tagline: “Great things are ahead of you when your health is ready for them.”
  • Agency: Cronin LLC
  • TV Ad impressions: 81.9 million
  • Average view rate: 97.38%
  • Recently aired on: "Everyone Loves Raymond" on TV Land

Kaiser Permanente leans on star power to sell their message that "good habits take practice" in a series of ads featuring husband-and-wife duo Stephen and Ayesha Curry.

Stephen, the basketball star, practices his moves on the court in dramatic fashion, while celebrity chef and TV star Ayesha takes a more low-key approach, striking yoga poses and blending fruit-and-veggie smoothies. 

The Oakland, California-based health insurer's top ad in April, however, strikes a much more sober note, with young children talking about the likelihood they'll develop chronic conditions such as heart disease, depression or diabetes.

"No matter who we are, these diseases can be managed or prevented when caught early on," says a young narrator.


  • Kaiser's April spend based on media value: $1.1 million
  • Campaign scope: 2 ads ran 168 times on national TV
  • TV ad impressions: 25.7 million
  • Average view rate: 97.2%
  • Tagline: "Thrive"
  • Ad agency: Campbell Ewald 
  • Recently aired on: "Cradle Swapping" on Lifetime

The top three payers spent their ad dollars on ABC (19.76% of industry spend), CBS (18.98%), NBC (10.90%), NBA TV (5.48%) and Univision (4.32%), according to iSpot.

Shows included the "52nd Academy of Country Music Awards" (5.94% of industry spend), "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (3.56%), "NBA Basketball" (3.20%), "Wheel of Fortune" (2.92%) and "The Catch" (2.27%).

The industry overall spent $8.6 million on 3,553 airings that generated 421.4 million TV ad impressions, according to iSpot.

About 36% of those ads reached 35- to 54-year olds; another 36% reached the 55-and-up demographic. Viewers were roughly split between male and female. 

Editor's note: FierceHealthcare has partnered with iSpot.tv, a real-time TV ad measurement company with attention and conversion analytics from 10 million smart TV screens, to bring you a monthly snapshot of the Healthcare industry's advertising spending and reach. For more about the company's attention and conversion analytics, visit iSpot.tv.