Every ad year has a low point
It’s that time again. We could talk about the best campaign of the year—but where’s the fun in that?
For your amusement, let’s plunge directly to the bottom.
I could ridicule the Liberty Mutual campaign for the reasons others have cited (and I will!). But I’m more curious about how an agency like Goodby Silverstein—long known for smart, award-winning work—could ever have churned out such dribble.
The obvious explanation is that Liberty Mutual is a terrible client.
There’s a saying in the biz that “clients get the advertising they deserve.” Bolstering this theory is the fact that the pre-Goodby advertising for Liberty Mutual (from agency Havas) was equally detestable.
However, this hardly excuses Goodby. What they’ve done for Liberty Mutual looks like a total surrender to somebody’s uncreative and amateurish instincts.
Whoever the culprit may be, this is a matter that demands attention from creative law enforcement.
United States Creative Court
Northern District of California
Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Conspiracy to commit crimes against advertising
COUNT 1 – LOWERING THE BAR
Agency inherited the woefully conceived Truth Teller campaign, then drove it further into the ground.
COUNT 2 – FAILURE TO AMUSE
Attempts at humor have been consistently amateurish and cringeworthy since Defendants began conspiring in 2017.
Exhibit B: Fitness Junkie
COUNT 3 – AUDIO & VIDEO ASSAULT
Defendants publicly released one of the most ill-conceived, grating and embarrassing jingles in advertising history.
COUNT 4 – ANIMAL ABUSE
Defendants added insult to injury by creating new and even less funny ads introducing the Liberty Mutual emu.
COUNT 5 – DOUBLE BRANDING
LiMu Emu ads start with a title screen and jingle, then end with a different title screen and jingle.
COUNT 6 – LOGO OVERKILL
A Liberty Mutual watermark remains visible for the entire duration of every ad—including the LiMu Emu ads, which also display logos on opening and closing title screens.
COUNT 6 – MEDIA POLLUTION
Defendants purposefully released the annoying Zoltar campaign to run simultaneously with the annoying LiMu Emu campaign—which was already running simultaneously with the annoying Truth Teller campaign.
COUNT 7 – DEFAMATION OF AD INDUSTRY
By consistently creating annoying and embarrassing ads, Defendants have caused irreparable harm to an industry already held in low regard by the consuming public.
In general, ad campaigns fall into one of three categories. (1) Terrific, which is rare. (2) Forgettable, which is common. (3) Shockingly bad, which is also hard to achieve.
Liberty Mutual and Goodby have together created a Category 3 adstorm.
But wait—an unindicted co-conspirator has also played a role in this criminal enterprise: the mainstream press. Astonishingly, Goodby’s work for Liberty Mutual has gone uncriticized, even lauded, on the major marketing websites. (AdAge and AdWeek, for example.)
FoxBusiness went all in on TV, lavishing the campaign with praise. In their interview, Liberty Mutual’s CMO Emily Fink explained it all—
“If you want to bring the company to life, and you want people to remember who the advertisement is actually from, that’s where characters and jingles come in.”
(I’ll pause in case you need to rinse your eyes after reading that.)
But back to this client/agency thing—
There was once a time when an ad agency might actually resign an account over “creative differences.” Yes, it was done for principle, but there was also a profit motivation—because standing up for quality creative work helped them attract likeminded (and more adventurous) clients.
If it was Liberty Mutual who forced the agency to betray its standards, Goodby would be incredibly heroic if they took a stand.
If, on the other hand, this campaign accurately reflects Goodby’s current standards… well, that’s one more bubble burst.