Brand: Travelers (St. Paul Travelers)
Link: Click Here
Target: Risk-adverse pedestrians
A young man walks out of his house and starts down the hill on a city street in San Francisco. He trips onto his neighbors folding sidewalk sale table and then rolls into a garbage can. Instead of collapsing in a pile, the garbage cans start rolling with him, like an expanding snowball. The big pile of rubble soon claims a car door, three more pedestrians, a motorcycle and narrowly avoids swallowing a city bus. Then it does take an old Jeep Cherokee complete with driver and plows its way down a green field to an outdoor wedding, swallowing a bride and groom. It rolls past a cafe and through the financial district and finally comes to a slamming halt at the stock exchange. Everything in the snowball is disgorged intact including the perplexed Jeep Cherokee driver who drives away and the original young man who dusts himself off and walks away. The voiceover says, “When your insurance is in-synch, you can roll with anything. Travelers. Insurance. In-synch.” The spot ends with the Travelers logo and the ‘Insurance. In-synch.’ tagline.
As we have come to expect from Fallon, this is one of the most visually arresting spots of the year (although they perhaps risk becoming the experts in ‘things rolling down a hill in San Francisco’ after this and the U.K. spot for the Sony Bravia). The CGI animation, courtesy of Weta Digital, (Peter Jackson’s special effects company responsible for The Lord of the Rings and King Kong) make the entire crazy premise look absolutely realistic and convincing.
Part of the struggle for insurers like the Travelers is to build a brand that means something to the consumer. AFLAC has done a nice job of differentiating themselves as a supplemental insurance carrier with an annoying duck as GEICO has with a slightly less-annoying Gecko (although of late they have made puzzling diversions with Burt Bacharach singing beside a claimant). Allstate has tried to position themselves as the ‘intelligent insurer’ offering accident forgiveness and other perks for the smart driver.
Amidst this hubbub, Travelers has to first stand out and secondly find a unique, ownable niche. This new campaign handily accomplishes the first part of that mission. The earlier spots which featured a boxer training hard for a title bout only to be knocked out by the announcer’s mike and a man trying to fly from a bridge with wings who discovers that he can’t swim too late were funny and memorable.
Each spot is weak on branding (Travelers shows up only at the end) but the net effect of this campaign has been to slowly associate Travelers with this particular sense of humor and ‘anything can go wrong’ worldview. While this advertising blog is not convinced that the branding is ideal, we believe that if Travelers continues this campaign with more executions for at least another year it will effectively break through and create a memorable association between the campaign and the brand.
This is a high-risk campaign for several reasons. The first risk is that it places more emphasis on story than brand. This makes the spots engaging, memorable and viewable but it leaves the brand with a very tenuous link to the advertising. That means that it will yield results slowly and will only work if the client maintains commitment to the campaign for a multi-year period. That is a lot of faith to have in a client.
The next risk of this campaign is that the brand positioning is very soft. Travelers appears to be a real innovator in the insurance industry. The company claims the following:
Travelers has a proud history of keeping in step with changes in the lives of customers and developing new products to address them. The company was the first to issue an auto policy, the first to provide flight insurance, the first to insure space travel, the first to insure data processing, and the first to introduce mobile claims headquarters.
This innovation has to be carried in this spot by the tagline ‘Insurance. In-synch.’ The action is supposed to show us that good insurance means understanding how your risks change with your lifestyle. It is extremely high-concept and we’re not sure that consumers will really get it. But we do think that if Travelers keeps at it, they will increase their likeablility and brand awareness in what is normally a very grim industry.
Branding Bottom Line:
Travelers might want to insure the cast of ‘Jackass’ before they try this at home.