When most people think of a topic like life insurance, they may take a more pessimistic view. Some may still refer to life insurance as a “death benefit,” and others, when they hear the word may think of how they plan their estates or select beneficiaries. And some people may only consider life insurance something needed by the elderly, especially the one million Americans in nursing homes, more than half of whom are over the age of 85.
In fact almost one-third (30 percent) or 95 million adults in the United States have no life insurance at all, according to insurance industry data.
However, MetLife — the insurance provider famous for using Peanuts cartoon characters like Snoopy as their mascots — is trying to change these perceptions with a new advertising campaign. The company recently began its “#WhoILiveFor” campaign as a way to get people to think about the loved ones in their lives instead of a more somber approach to purchasing life insurance. MetLife wants users to tell the company whom they “live for” on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by using the hashtag #WhoILiveFor. MetLife began the campaign this September to celebrate Life Insurance Awareness Month, sponsored by the industry’s nonprofit organization Life Happens.
Perhaps more interesting than the hashtag itself is whom the company has chosen to appear in the vignettes to promote the campaign and MetLife’s life insurance services. MetLife’s ads, or vignettes portray individuals and couples of all races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, such as a young Hispanic man who talks about his boyfriend, an interracial couple, men who could be single fathers and a lesbian couple.
Richard Hong, senior vice president for global brand and marketing at MetLife, explains that the company is using the occasion of Life Insurance Awareness Month “to try to get people to think about insurance in a different way.” Hong notes that people become “effusive” when people are asked whom they “buy insurance for.” Instead, he says, “We wanted to flip the lens on this, make it a positive, with a simple question: Who do you live for?” Hong says that MetLife wants more people to “join the conversation” by uploading videos all over the web, including on their own Facebook and Twitter pages — and on MetLife’s, too.
As for the diversity in the videos, Hong says they are “just reflecting what America looks like today,” especially as advertisers get better at portraying the country’s demographics. U.S. Census data from 2010 shows that one in 10, or 5.4 million, opposite-sex couples are interracial, a 28 percent increase since 2000. The same Census reveals that the number of same-sex couple households in the U.S. rose 9 percent from 2000 to a total of 646,000.
The portrayals in MetLife’s vignettes are in keeping with other large brands’ commercials, which have featured nontraditional couples and families. Cheerios, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, CVS and Honey Maid graham crackers are among them.
Even a DirecTV ad for its NFL Sunday Ticket service showed a same-sex couple engaging in a humorous rivalry over their favorite football teams — “just like any couple.”
But diversity casting “shouldn’t be a novelty,” says Hong. “I look forward to the day it’s just natural, and standard operating procedure.”
If the campaign is successful, MetLife representatives say they would like to extend it and also make October a part of Life Insurance Awareness Month.