York on ads: No 31: Norwich Union

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The Independent Culture
'NORFOLK man drowned' said the Norwich papers after the Titanic sank. The Norwich Union shares this think-local perspective in its new ad. It's in the style I call New Age people-of-the-world. Thus a collage of folk - shoving Japanese commuters, tribal dancers, boxers, orthodox Greeks, babies in incubators, old women - and a variety of deeply felt emotions are swiftly paraded to a background of religious choral music (another standard feature of this type of commercial).

This contains an underlying verity known to the canny and cautious people of East Anglia for thousands of years. 'Scientists,' says yet another Voice of Authority voice-over, 'have spent many years watching the people of our planet, trying to find the fundamental things that make us tick.' They didn't get far, apparently, until the astronauts went up and saw the one man-made achievement visible from space - the Great Wall of China. Then all became clear. 'The most basic instinct known to man - is to protect.' In other words, to be an East Anglian actuary.

But the people of Norwich clearly feel insecure without a spell-it-out pack shot, so we finish on a clear branding message: 'Norwich Union. No one protects more.'

There's a lot of it about: woolly messages and swirly pictures linked to somewhat more prosaic goods and services like insurance. But the problem is always branding: scientists have established that the people of the world find it exceedingly difficult to retain most financial-services messages for more than five seconds.

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