I become a grumpy old man while watching insurance ads

Those of you who know me are aware that I spent virtually my entire professional career in the advertising/marketing agency business. So, there’s no surprise that I have strong opinions about the state of contemporary advertising. I continue to lament the decline of real creativity in most advertising today.

I have always believed that the most effective ads are those that marry messaging based on sound marketing strategy with a compelling delivery that draws attention, commands interest and, ultimately, stimulates action.

Most advertising today fails miserably at meeting this standard.

Most advertising is gimmicky. No strategy. Only supposed cleverness for cleverness’s sake. Or ads written and produced that serve little other purpose than to indulge the egos of the creative team.

I would use as examples the traditionally over-rated, over-priced, over-hyped TV ads that run in the Super Bowl – this year being just one more case-in-point. But since the ads in the most recent Super Bowl have already been discussed ad nauseam, I will spare you and myself any further discussion of that particular display of over-the-top ineptness.

Rather I will focus my attention on the advertising produced by one particular industry. Insurance. 

There is much blame to go around. In fairness, some of the insurance campaigns probably started with a legitimate marketing premise. Maybe the advertisers and their agencies even deserve some credit for consistency in their campaigns. Sadly, however, carrying campaign continuity through seemingly endless new iterations results in mind-numbingly contrived commercials.

Although State Farm, All State and even Geico are guilty of too much repetition and other advertising sins, I will give them a pass for now and direct my wrath to two campaigns I especially despise: Liberty Mutual and Progressive.

How many iterations of LiMu Emu and Doug can we continue to stomach from Liberty Mutual? And really what does an emu have to do with anything? It is simply a feeble attempt to draw attention without any relevance to their “Pay only for what you need” strategy.

Progressive, of course, has two concurrent campaigns. Flo and her cadre of apron-wearing colleagues may have started with good intentions but should have been killed off years ago.

The other Progressive campaign that I cannot stomach is the one featuring Dr. Rick and his “young homeowners becoming their parents.” I know some of my younger friends find it humorous. I find it offensive on many levels. The campaign is nothing more than ageism in a thinly veiled disguise of derogatory humor.

When I was young, I would never have ridiculed my parents for starting a conversation with a waitress about her career, or shaming someone for using a love of crafting to decorate a tissue box. 

And what is so shame-worthy about recycling butter cartons to use for left-overs? Then there’s the scene where Dr. Rick throws the one student’s “Live. Love. Laugh” sign in the trash. Is this inspirational reminder any different that the motivational-minded business executive who posts inspirational posters around the office?

As a society, we are generally disposed to calling out prejudices that demean segments of the population. But when it comes to ageism, using humor to demean others is no less offensive.

I realize I have buried the lede for this article a bit. But I believe my discomfort with offensive messaging also reinforces my views that creativity in advertising has been diminished by the lack of strategic foundation.

 And a flawed strategy may be worse than no strategy at all.