Dave Banta, EVP and Group Creative Director at Hill Holliday shared some powerful insights during a phone interview about the Liberty Mutual campaign that I’ve also blogged about in the past two posts. Dave’s background spans more than 25 years in advertising at different agencies across the country, he’s been creative director on Liberty Mutual’s account for 3 ½ of his 4 ½ years at Hill Holliday.
Did you get any pushback – either internally or from the client?
“There was a little anxiety – when we do these things we do them with the best intentions – we do these things to make a point that is true. We wanted an accurate story. You have to ask yourself – are you leveraging a person with disability to make a brand look good? i.e. using her disability to make ourselves look better in the commercial or are we making an accurate real commercial.”
How did you and your team conceive of the idea?
“Liberty Mutual’s platform is responsibility so the idea is to celebrate the customers’ responsibility while sharing the company’s own – service – treating customers the way they need to. As a company and brand the campaign says that Liberty Mutual is standing up during this era of corporate malfeasance.
The responsibility idea originated with the first spot – small acts add up to make a difference – this kind of pay it forward spot – one person does a responsible act and another person witnesses / participates and does their own responsible thing and it comes full circle.
We ran that ad and it got traction – the company was very selflessly putting out this message of responsibility among the category’s clutter of spots among examples including telling people they could save $400 in 15 minutes.
The Election ad with Teal Sherer took one person who is responsible and followed only her throughout the ad – this person has every excuse to not do her civic duty but she continues on regardless and votes – where able bodied people potentially would be apathetic. The thought is the viewer would watch that and with only one person’s story in the ad, viewers would pay it forward and create a virtual circle connecting back to the responsible act in the commercial.
After testing we found out that people still like seeing the multiple people’s interaction / circle acted out so we did more of those spots and now you see the sight impaired woman in the Liberty Mutual spot.”
What sparked this creative idea?
“Including the woman in the spot came from a personal experience. I take the train everyday into Boston and I usually ride in the same passenger car as a blind man along with his seeing eye dog. What surprises me every day is the people who help him AND those who don’t. Some people will help him through doors and offer him a seat and some won’t. Thinking about paying forward the responsibility theme, it’s also interesting to watch reactions of people when they see others assisting him – or watching people’s reactions to those that don’t. We weren’t making judgements – there are people who will step up and help people eregardless of any circumstance they do the right thing.”
What got you to come back to Liberty Mutual with another PWD in this most recent spot?
“For Liberty Mutual, we’ve always tried to accurately represent the target audience and that is everybody and being inclusive is just about accurately representing the target audience.”
How come more advertising isn’t inclusive of people with disabilities?
“Sometimes people think companies are using people with disabilities, PWD’s, just to leverage emotion for personal brand benefit for the corporation. People ask the question – are we taking advantage of the disability for emotions to sell a product?
There are innovative, contemporary companies out there that build there brands around risk and then there are the majority of risk averse and I think they look at the legal implications and they shy away from it and then there is an implication to the product that potentially may be negative. Anytime you put out an ad it is a risk – because there is no universal acceptance people may criticize it. We believed we were doing it with the best intentions regardless of their disability.
You want to be true to people who are watching the commercial – a lot of times clients want aspirational worlds of perfection. There is this fantasy world where people can watch where no one really exists. I like to be true and real with storytelling – so I think if you are going to be accurately representing the population then you should include everybody and PWD’s are part of that. Diversity isn’t just in the big cities – it’s in small towns, it’s everywhere.”