Healthcare Startup Oscar Seeks New Agency Partner After Hiring Old Navy CMO

Company co-founded by Joshua Kushner has worked with Mother

The company looks to 'revolutionize healthcare.' Oscar Health
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Oscar Health, an insurance startup launched in the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is shopping around for agencies.

According to two parties with direct knowledge of the matter, the company recently issued an RFP for a competitive creative review. One indicated that it is a project-based pitch focused on further defining and raising awareness of the Oscar brand.

A client spokesperson declined to comment.

Oscar came to life in 2012; founders include CEO Mario Schlosser, Kevin Nazemi and Joshua Kushner, the latter of whom is the brother of current White House advisor Jared Kushner. Its launch came on the strength of investments from Thrive Capital, General Catalyst Partners, Fidelity Investments and more, and attracted considerable attention from the tech press.

As of its early 2016 C-round of funding, Fidelity valued the company at $2.7 billion.

The three Harvard Business School classmates started the company with the goal of helping consumers better navigate the new healthcare landscape after significant changes brought on by full implementation of the ACA, better known as Obamacare. It provides telemedicine services and an app designed to connect users with healthcare providers through their insurance plans.

Oscar’s advertising efforts have included a campaign that ran on the New York City public transit system beginning in 2013 as well as a 2015 TV campaign. The work is notable for its colorful cartoon characters; here is a 2015 spot characterizing the service.

Other marketing efforts have included Tonic, an Oscar-sponsored health vertical from Vice.

In the past, Oscar has worked with multiple agencies including Mother New York, Untitled Worldwide, Special Guest, and Something New.

A spokesperson for Mother New York, which led the brand’s most visible campaigns to date, declined to comment.

The RFP also came around the same time the company hired a new CMO. Ivan Wicksteed joined Oscar earlier this month after spending the previous decade as CMO for fashion brands including Converse, Cole Haan and Old Navy and launching strategic consultancy FNDR.

“Ivan’s ability to leverage two key components of successful marketing—creative and analytics—will make him an important contributor to Oscar’s growth,” said CEO Schlosser regarding that announcement and the hire of Verizon’s Gerard Ohen as vp of talent acquisition.

Open enrollment for the ACA launches each November and lasts through the following month, so upcoming campaigns for Oscar will most likely go live at a time designed to raise awareness during that period.

According to the latest numbers from Kantar Media, the brand spent approximately $1.4 million on paid media in 2018. After this story initially ran, however, Wicksteed estimated his new company’s annual marketing budget at $30 million.

This story has been updated to reflect that Mother New York was Oscar’s most recent creative agency partner.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: April 15, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT