In past years, I was annoyed by commercial interruptions of a television program. More recently, I have come to appreciate commercials, as some of them are more creative than the programs they interrupt.
A few commercials are uninspired and boring and others are too repetitive to be successful. Many commercials, while entertaining, appear to have no relevance to the product, company, or service they are promoting. In addition to the service that advertising firms provide, they have something else in common; most of them are keen on using animals in their ads. Some of the animals are appealing, others are not.
There is a preponderance of ads offered by insurance companies; apparently, there is stiff competition between them.
The small green lizard that represents one major insurance company is an adorable little creature. This is due in part to the charming voiceover with a working-class Cockney accent. I initially thought the lizard’s name was Gecko, but it was an incorrect assumption as a gecko is a type of lizard. This little guy in the ad, whether a lizard or a gecko, has a name, Martin; he is named after the ad agency that created him.
Another charming creature, one that has been the official mascot of yet another insurance agency, is the Aflac Duck. Gilbert Gottfried did the voiceover for the little fellow for ten years until he was fired and a 36-year-old from Minnesota replaced him and became the new voice of the loud-mouthed waterfowl. Like the Geico ads, many of the Aflac ads have been amusing.
Most recently, the television viewing public is being treated to the sight, and squawk, of an unattractive bird known as an emu. This animal is a large, flightless, ostrich-like bird but one that lacks the graceful plumage of the ostrich. Try as I have, I can find nothing attractive about this emu with its hair-like feathers that resemble shaggy fur. So unappealing is this animal to me that I cannot watch the ads. The final image of this emu is a blend of footage captured from live emus and a digitally created emu.
As a rule, ads and commercials do not dictate to many consumers which products they will buy or which insurance company they will sign with. Possibly it is the constant repetition of these ads that does the trick. But whether they like the ads or not, many people remember the name of the company they represent. Occasionally, I am tempted to contact the offices of the company that uses the emu in its ads. My call would be to apply for a job in their advertising department. In the unlikely event that I might be hired, despite my lack of advertising experience, my first move would be to ditch the LiMu Emu ad. There is an infinite number of creatures more pleasant to look at. How about a bunny rabbit? A puppy? A kitten? A squirrel? Even a baby chick! If larger animals are preferable, I would go with a panda or even a different bear.
Over the years, some of these have been featured in other commercials, but most people would rather see a pleasant-looking animal in multiple commercials than to see a new one that is ugly. However, opting for total honesty (or, as they say today, full transparency), it appears that I must be in the minority, as company executives have reported that their LiMu Emu ads have been a big hit. The company spokesman recently stated that the agency has received requests for emu-themed merchandise. And, as a result of this popularity, it has recently been announced that there are plans for more emu commercials later this summer.
I stand my ground, however, as I continue to find that the emu, native to Australia, is unattractive as well as annoyingly loud. If the company is determined to use a large fowl, my preference would be for Big Bird who resides on Sesame Street. It seems unlikely, however, that I will get my wish, since the emu ads are scheduled to escalate and the company will not consider hiring me to create new, emu-free ones.
Hopefully, nobody at that insurance agency will read this and come after me. Maybe I should preempt such a problem by hiring an attorney. However, this is not a criticism of the corporation that uses the emu ads but only of the ads themselves. Additionally, my opinion is not a criticism of the talented man who appears in the ads with that ungainly bird. Until recently, I did not realize that LiMu is an abbreviation that uses the first two letters of the company’s first and second names. This is catchy, but it does nothing to change my mind about the ads, so I always keep the television’s remote control by my side, which enables me to quickly change the channel or, at the very least, to mute the sound.
Commercials are meant to benefit advertisers and to provide a service that helps consumers to make choices. But everybody would be better served if the ads were more reflective of the product or service, if they were less repetitious, and if all featured animals were endearing. That’s just my opinion, but that’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435. Read more of Hannah Berman’s articles on 5TJT.com.