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Aviva: The Worst Campaign on TV

Taxpayer-funded government bail-outs are protecting banks, insurance companies and other businesses whilst people are losing everything they own. Against this backdrop, one of the UK's best known insurance companies, 200-year-old Norwich Union, is flooding the airwaves with their new TV ad. They've spent a fortune on celebrity endorsements, high-priced post-production, and a huge media buy to do what? To tell us that they're changing their name to Aviva ... in June 2009.


The campaign is by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and reportedly cost $13.4 million. It was directed by Vaughan Arnell who has previously directed several Robbie Williams music videos. According to the Guardian, media planning and buying for the campaign was handled by OMD and will run for six months.

There are a few different versions out there, like this one with a different order and with Dame Edna replacing Elle Macphereson, but Bruce Willis, Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper seem to be in all of them.

I'm sure AMV BBDO is loving it. After all, it is a major-league ad. With the exception of the awkward and poorly read script at the end by Alice Cooper, it is really a well-made ad. In fact, I'd say it has Cannes Festival award potential. Bet you that they're already talking about short lists and champagne in the AMV board meetings. Plus, the more things cost, the more they make. And big spot TV is really where the money is at.

And the media buyers will be happy too. OMD gets to plan and buy this turd for six months. That's guaranteed revenue, folks. And if you're a TV media buyer, you're not hearing the word 'guarantee' much these days.

In fact, I can't think of a better way for an insurance company to respond to an economic crisis of what is yet an unknown magnitude than by spending a huge wad of cash on TV advertising?

Seiously, though, WTF were the planners thinking?

Ok, instead of just me ranting, let me copy and paste a few comments for you from YouTube and the Times Online:

Pissing away a fortune to pay those greedy pigs is good for reputation? The ad makes me puke.

Typical Norwich Union - waste money on spin whilst diddling its policyholders insurance is boring and my point is who really gives a shit was they are called? and why waste millions on payouts to greedy celebs who have enough money for many generations of their family

It is so disgusting that this company pays these "fat cats" a fortune just to advertise their change in name, who cares if their name has changed?

still a boring insurance company, and the celebs greed is horrendous, shame on you ringo, bruce, alice, and tranny.

Dreadful grasping company.. pathetic returns; endowment shortfalls; reattribution rip-off; swinging staff cuts; exporting call centres to India etc but they can find money for this sort of worthless advertising and sky gh directors salaries

Just what is needed at the time of a credit crunch - a suggestion that you may have paid some stars a lot of money to star in an advert to tell us about your no doubt costly name changing exercise - great timing!

This rebranding is nothing to do with value creation and everything to do with a new CEO's ego as a very good editorial in the FT said at the time of his appointment. If the Board's main preoccupation was the creation of shareholder value it wouldn't be wasting millions destroying a great brand.

In addition to the ATL and media buyers, the Aviva PR machine is obviously hard at work. In an article on Times Online called Aviva plays the game of the name as it rebrands Norwich Union, we get some first-hand insight into the campaign and name change from Ariva employee and veteran rebrander and name-changer Amanda Mackenzie:
Amanda Mackenzie, Aviva's group marketing director, is no stranger to brand changes, she worked at BT when it changed its logo from a piper to a globe and helped Mars when it changed Marathon to Snickers and Opal Fruits to Starburst. The name-change logic is straightforward: We have 27 markets around the world and thought: Wouldn't it be good and sensible to have the same name around the world.

The timing - in the midst of a global recession - might be thought by some to be a little strange. We have got to be open-minded enough to say: Well, maybe we will keep a little bit of the comfort blanket of the old brand for a little bit longer, if people need it,' she said. For this reason the Irish and Polish name changes are to be a gradual process, Hibernian, for example, changing to Hibernian Aviva and then to Aviva Hibernian before the Hibernian is lost in 2010.
A comfort blanket?

How about not blowing a bunch of cash on changing the name of a well-known and respected brand? Norwich Union was founded in 1797 and has roots back to the 1600s. Why new? What about the power and strength of nostalgia? I'll tell you something, I certainly will not be funding the change of their name with my business anytime soon.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and I could be full of shite. What do you think? If you're from Norwich Union or someone from AMV BBDO, I'd especially love to hear (and publish) your thoughts.

Sunday, January 04, 2009   permalink to archived copy   DiggIt  


It's not really new news. NU have been moving toward Aviva for some time. Whether it's wise or not is another matter. Before The Downturn (as the BBC have so helpfully re-branded the Credit Crunch) took hold I posted this blog entry:

I used to work for NU as the post describes and whilst it's easy to knock the company for an ad campaign (to which they almost certainly committed way before the current economic crisis), the truth is that - behind the scenes - a slew of people are trying really hard to make it a better, more customer-centric organisation.

Sadly, with John Kitson at the Sales and Marketing helm, all they'll end up doing is cutting prices in a market where they will never be competitive. All the while the claims and customer service suffer. It's disingenuous and crude; the "Happy's Back" activity is juxtaposed with this slick brand awareness campaign, and that's the really travesty. No integration, no consistency. No vision.
# posted by Blogger smorgasbord-design : 2:12 PM, January 15, 2009  

Hello there.

Thanks very much for your post and insight. Really adds to the conversation.

Had a look at your post, too. Loved this: "Casting aside the desire to appear global (as it can do that with aplomb with its non-specific Aviva marque) its a rather disingenuous piece of regional PR to throw some cash at the local team and smacks of management team with few ideas."

Keep in touch!
# posted by Blogger George Nimeh : 4:45 PM, January 15, 2009  

I've worked there for eight years and cannot believe how staff are treated, I've applied and re-applied for my own job six times. Don't speak up, don't dare to challenge some very underhand behaviour and completely misguided managers or you won't get your job next time around.

The 'brand change' is a non-sense created as the FT editor pointed out, no reason for it, just a few promotions for a few bum-licking managers.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 8:59 PM, February 04, 2009  

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