Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Remember When Liberty Mutual Commercials Were Memorable?

I am as much of a fan of quality advertising as the next person and have written several articles about effective and less than effective commercials in this blog. One of the ones I have liked was the early Liberty Mutual insurance company commercial.

You know the spot, the lady prevents the man from walking out in front of cars, a man holds the door for someone who is about to drop things, another woman stops the ball from going out in front of the truck. The message is, when individuals do such it is being responsible. When it is an insurance company, it is Liberty Mutual.

Like many of the better commercials, I had to watch it a few times before I got it (yes, I can be slow when it comes to advertising). I was often too intrigued by the message. It was implying that people should be looking out for the needs and interests to others. You got to love it. When I finally got the totality of the message, I thought, “yes, that is the insurance company I want for me.”

Liberty Mutual is abiding with the adage that, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. As a result we are seeing them produce a more similar themed commercial. Same message, just different stories and characters. Unfortunately, they are not nearly as effective as the original. First of all, the characters aren’t as endearing, in my opinion. They are not as warm as the ones in the initial ads. Also, people are inspired by the kindness of others to do the right thing. You don’t get this in the new ad. A person witnesses a man at an amusement park giving a boy a teddy bear. In the eyes of the casual observer, the boy probably had just won. In another situation, the choice of being nice is simply obvious where a lady hands photos to a man and his son that obviously belong to them. There is little inspiration there.

The bottom line problem with the new ads is similar to the problems the entertainment industry has with movies. The sequel is rarely as good as the original. A better ad campaign would have had characters going a little deeper in individual story lines. Instead, the new spots beg criticism. You can see the movie review show hosts ready to put thumbs down. “It isn’t a new program, it is the continuation of the first one!” The other critic: “this is a complete waste of film.”

Sure, the ads still have a positive and helpful message. But they simply are not as special any more.

Kevin Price's articles are found daily in national publications such as USA Today, Chicago Sun Times, and Reuters. Subscribe to his newsletter here.

Kevin Price is Host of the Houston Business Show (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review.

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