Real life has been intruding in advertising lately, and it’s a good thing. One marketer shared stories of bizarre insurance claims, another held a contest for the worst do-it-yourself experience and a cereal brand showed off a colossal beehive. Why the focus on real life? It may be a reaction to overly abstract messages like the recent Voya Financial commercials, in which an orange acorn-saving squirrel is called a “spokes-metaphor” for the importance of saving for retirement. Real-life marketing bypasses abstractions and metaphors to show the product or service benefiting real people in real life.

Here are some examples.

Farmers Insurance, emphasizing the theme, “We Know From Experience,” has a spot featuring a real-life claim from Colorado involving a deer that got into a policyholder’s swimming pool and caused real-life damage. Another video, titled “Smash and Grub,” tells the story of a California customer who had a bear break into a vacation home. Both incidents show Farmers can handle exotic claims, so surely it can handle everyday claims from ordinary customers.

Another example comes from Allstate’s Mayhem character (now in his seventh year with the insurer), who acted out a real-life DIY disaster for a TV commercial. The incident (involving a chain saw, tree and porch roof) was the winner of a contest in which viewers of college football playoffs voted for their favorite kind of DIY disaster to show during the championship game on Jan. 11.

Last year Western Union created an American Dream sweepstakes in which customers who send money by its website or app were featured in videos talking about the American Dream. These videos sparked real-life conversations: What is the American Dream? Do you believe in it? Are you helping others achieve theirs? As the prizes (totaling $182,500) were given away during the promotion, videos included Western Union employees and prize-winners talking about how the sweepstakes affected their lives. It became an authentic way to highlight American values while still delivering the marketing message that Western Union is a good way to send money.

Honey Nut Cheerios decided a real-life way to show that it’s made with real honey was to enlist the help of some half a million honeybees, owned by a St. Cloud, Florida, beekeeper. They created a huge beehive that’s part of a three-story billboard, on which “Made With Real Honey” is spelled out in actual honey. Check out this unique out-of-home advertisement in this Honey Nut Cheerios video.

The popularity of using real-life techniques in marketing was confirmed when Advertising Age magazine gave its campaign of the year award to Geico’s “Unskippable” series of pre-roll ads. Marketing types appreciated the way it delivered a “you’ll save money” message in a format that most viewers skip when they can. But as the narrator cheerfully reminds us, “You can’t skip this ad because it’s already over.” That’s real-life humor.

SKAR has used real-life techniques in testimonial advertising for the ETMC Regional Healthcare System – see this example of a woman who overcame cancer – and for American National Bank, as in these examples of local businesses that counted on our client’s banking services.

If you’d like to see whether real-life marketing techniques could make a real difference in the marketing challenges you face, contact SKAR.

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