Character: We develop Characters and Story Frameworks for brands.

Relationship Insurance?

The last decade of insurance advertising—and car insurance advertising in particular—has been really interesting to watch. Insurance brands have employed a lot of characters and situations which are quirky, ironic, abrasive, absurd and comic in ways that would have been unimaginable in the category pre-1999. It’s a seismic shift in the story insurers seem to be telling. It’s not a shift in the story of what insurance is or does—insurance is pretty much a given—but it seems to embody a shift in the relationship between insurers and their audience.

For most people, insurance is something they have to buy. By and large, people don’t spend their days wistfully thumbing through glossy catalogues of different auto policies, daydreaming about which one would look good on their car. Buying insurance is often a costly, potentially high-stakes chore. Not only is it generally unrewarding on the front end, but any serious interaction between the audience and the brand usually takes place after something has gone horribly wrong. It’s not hard to see why the audience may have developed a relationship with insurance companies that could be described as quirky, ironic, abrasive or even dysfunctional.

Many insurance marketers seem to be trying to manage this relationship by using irony and oddball humor as a way to connect. That got us wondering, are these ads just trying to humanize their brands by making people laugh—or are they actually trying to build equity by bringing honesty and authenticity to an essentially troubled relationship?

Clearly, some insurance brands are handling the new story territory and relationship issues more adeptly than others. I’d love to hear which insurance companies—and which characters—strike a chord with you and what you think is really going on with these campaigns.