ARTS: Daring to be boring

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 225: AXA
"BIG UP" is the watch word of the dullest sort of corporate advertising - the kind of thing that starts, "it's a little-known fact that every day 300 tons of cereals made with a Snipcock & Tweed gelling agent are eaten from here to Tibet," along with split screens showing the ethnic variety of gelling-agent beneficiaries.

Axa are big Euro-insurers, but are pretty unknown here. So what do they do to lay the groundwork, the marketing platform for gaining a share in the exciting UK personal financial services market? They big up mightily. They tell you that every day millions of people, etc. But they know insurance has to have a heartfelt theme word and some modestly surreal visual stuff too. The word is faith and the visuals involve knife-throwers, long roads to the future and a blind girl walking between two freight trains.

The pay-off looks like the old BBC News's concentric circles. Out of them emerge dismal words like pensions, life assurance, business insurance. This goes against the wisdom that says financial services are so boring their promotion should be built around brand personality.

It may be, however, that the Axa commercial's not intended for real people at all, but rather for the City and the industry, in which case there should be a warning of some kind, as in: "For red-hot insurance guys only".

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