Exploring Human Potential

Deconstructing Humana’s New Health Gap Ad.

Posted on | May 23, 2014 | 8 Comments

Mike Magee

If you google the term “income gap”, you get near 72 million hits – not surprising considering the financial disaster of 2008, the non-punishment of banking execs (visible once again with this week’s publication of Tim Gaitner’s book), and the “Occupy Wall Strett” movement with it’s aftermath.

How can you top “income gap”? Try googling “Obamacare” and you will more than double it. But what if you were to combine “gap” with “health care”, what would you get?  You’d get the award winning Humana television ad released this month. It was created for them by the ad agency, RAPP, which describes itself this way, “We create brand, digital and direct experiences: all driven by data, inspired by culture and enabled by technology. We create experiences that matter.”

About this campaign, the agency blares: HELLO: HEALTH+CARE (as in, It’s health plus care, stupid!). RAPP has developed creative brand advertising for a bucket of firms including American Express, Apple, BMW, British Airways, Harvey Nichols, IBM, Pfizer, Philips, Skype, Sony, Tesco, Unicef, Barclays, BT, Cisco, CRUK, Eurostar, HBOS, London Underground, Marks and Spencer, Mars, Orange, Nissan, NSPCC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Vodafone, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

But in explaining their work for Humana, they say it was more than just branding. In their words, “ For a Fortune 70 company who had never done a brand campaign in its 53 years of existence, Humana faced quite a task. Not only did Humana aim to change the negative perception of healthcare, they also wanted to demonstrate their genuine industry leadership…But closing the gap between people and care is more than just a brand idea and an advertising campaign for Humana: it’s a cause that will drive the culture and behavior of the entire business for years to come.”

Enough hype. Let’s look at the ad.


View above, then we’ll discuss.

OK. Let’s deconstruct it, piece by piece.

The Words: They are powerful and direct, delivered over 60 seconds at a slow, contemplative pace: “There is a gap out there. It’s keeping you apart from the health care you deserve. But if health care changes, if it becomes simpler, the gap begins to close. When frustration and paper work decrease; when doctors are better connected; when grandparents get to live at home instead of in a home; the gap closes even more. And you begin to live a healthier, happier life. So let’s simplify things. Let’s close the gap between people and care.”

The Images: This is middle America, with rolling fields, small cities, and friendly folk in middle class cars. We meet members of three different families, including two patient families and one health care family.  The images themselves are soft brushed and move from close-ups to aerial shots to extreme close-ups and back again. The images move fast but transition seemlessly. You’re absorbing messages without full awareness, at least during the first run. You’re hearing the word “gap” and feeling the word “gap”, without analysis or judgement.

All three “families” introduced are initially concerned, worried, disturbed.  All seemingly are stuck. There is a worried adult white male father with his young son buckled in the back seat, stuck at a drawbridge that’s open wide. A small town rises on a hill on the other side.

There is a a worried African American 10 year old girl wearing sparkled, slipper-like shoes edged in pink ribbon and no socks confronting a large puddle blocking the walk way.

There is a slightly agitated, attractive, middle aged white female delayed at a railroad crossing blocking a road that cuts through sprawling orchards and agricultural fields extending out on either side of the road

The draw bridge comes down allowing the father and son to proceed. Father says reassuringly to son, “Here we go.” Son smiles in response.

The railroad gates go up and the woman drives forward, quietly determined and relieved to be heading to wherever she’s going.

The little girl hesitates,takes several steps back, and then confidently gains confidence and momentum, successfully jumping over the puddle. She made it. She’s free.

The father and son make it to the hospital, rush in, are able to quickly register on an electronic device, and join mother who’s in labor being assisted by a compassionate nurse.

The little girl arrives at her grandmother’s house, to find her waiting on an all-American front porch,  with a cane in hand, being assisted by a home-based Hispanic family health care professional.

The woman is a doctor, now in the hospital in surgical scrubs, sitting at diagnostic computer screens and consulting electronically with an Asian doctor, before entering an African American male patient’s room with the warm greeting, “How are you doing?”

Now there are very short sequential ultra close-up’s of a new baby’s arm, smiling big brother, loving nurturing mom, proud father. 1,2,3,4.

Final image, close-up healthy baby with soft blankey, with tiny hand clutching Mom’s finger – gap eliminated.

Dissolve to Humana logo underscored with  “”.

Music: Instrumental, from open to close,  emotional but reassuring.


Andrew T. Lee: Actor/Actress – Plays Consulting Doctor

Atlanta Harris: Actor/Actress – Plays Grandmother with walker on porch

Mayeh Thomas: Actor/Actress – Plays Granddaughter

Mette Holt: Actor/Actress – Plays Surgeon talking to doctor on screen

Nina Cortes: Actor/Actress – Plays Home Health Aid

Robert Seay: Actor/Actress – Plays Dad driving in glasses

Summary: The creators clearly knew what they were doing with the first gentle female narrator line, “There is a gap out there.” The listener is alerted not by the striking static image of the open drawbridge but by the 4 second auditory alert of 4 deep piano chords. Second line – second theme creates the bridge; “It is keeping you apart from the health care you deserve.” Third contemporary trigger, “You Deserve” = Health care is a right, not a privilege. Fourth foundation block: diversity, bottom-line, we’re all Americans. Simplicity, connection, healthy, happy follow. Frustration melts away for three different “families” we now feel we know. They are not stuck anymore. They’re OK because the gap is gone. Thank you, Humana, thank you!

Ads are make believe. Over the years, I’ve worked with many of the best, including four competing firms, housed together for over a year at 42nd and 2nd Avenue in New York in preparation for the release of Viagra. When they are successful, it is not the result of trickery, but rather because the ads tap into themes and strands of emotion that already exist, are fresh, and are emotional to listeners – like the inequity that exists in America between the have’s and the have not’s, the frustration that is universally felt when one is “stuck” in life, or the sense of relief we all feel when we know someone cares about us, is present, and is fighting on our behalf.

What Humana captured here is that health care is changing in America, and at least this one health care company has staked out the position that that is not only good for Americans, but also for the country as a whole.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee.


8 Responses to “Deconstructing Humana’s New Health Gap Ad.”

  1. DONNA
    July 1st, 2014 @ 5:54 pm


  2. Mike Magee
    July 1st, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

    I don’t think so. I believe it’s Mare Carmody (

  3. Rusch
    July 11th, 2014 @ 11:23 am


    Close the gap, are they serious, they don’t even offer decent health insurance to their own employees . . . . and they are a health insurance company, all they offer is HDHP ($8000 deduct before they pay a dime), they claim it’s to incentive you to make better health choices, no its so they can save a buck on their own people, here is the real reason they did it,

  4. Laura
    December 23rd, 2014 @ 11:09 pm

    Um, not exactly a “small town” behind the bridge. That’s Seattle and the Montlake Bridge, which is by the University of Washington.

  5. Mike Magee
    December 24th, 2014 @ 9:15 am

    Thanks, Laura!

  6. Francine
    March 8th, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

    I appreciate the honesty of this analysis.

  7. Anita King
    March 9th, 2015 @ 8:18 pm

    what is the name of the “compassionate nurse” – it looks like someone I know – but her name is not mentioned above.

  8. Mike Magee
    March 10th, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

    The name of the nurse is not available to us.

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