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Throwback Thursday: The 6 best insurance ads from yesteryear

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Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool, evoking warm memories of a simpler time. With the advent of technology (read: YouTube), we can easily remember what yesteryear looked like with the click of button. We can learn from days gone by which sales formulas were successful and apply them to doing business today

As a follow-up to our recent article about the most memorable life and health insurance ads, we go back to the beginnings of the TV era to find the life and health insurance commercials that have stood the test of time. 

Get ready to board our time machine. Let the countdown begin!


2000s: TRIGON, Spinach or Spanish?

“Spinach, carrots, greens.” These kids really know what to eat to stay healthy. The boy and girl duo continue their conversation and when the boy says that he already mentioned “spinach” the girl corrects him: “I said ‘Spaaanish.” The boy corrects her: “No, that’s not… Spanish is ‘¿cómo estás?’ it’s nothing you eat.” To which the girl replies: “Hakuna Matata.” The boy is visibly annoyed at her for not being serious. 

This ad plays on the innocence of children and their funny quirks. Also, it’s so cute, which is a great selling tool because you will remember it.


1980s: Prudential, Get a piece of the rock

“Poor Harold?!” repeats an incredulous Harold to himself. He never thought he would “go like that”, but it happens every day and that’s why Prudential recruited angels, or so it seems. Did they use the actor who plays Harold because he looks like a shorter Andy Kaufman and is funny? We might never know, but the ad uses a lighthearted tone to talk about life insurance and death, which are two things that are not easy to bring up in any conversation.


1980s: American Family Insurance, Behold the computer era!

Those are some fancy computer letters or “graphics” you’ve got there, AmFam! It’s amazing how they integrated real life video shots with computer “animation,” for the 1980s. But looking at the images of the operating room might give you goose bumps if you’ve had surgery before. And out of $22K for the medical services, the most you pay for covered expenses is $125? Where do I sign up?!

This ad is playing on the emotion of you being able to afford the medical care you need. The fact that it doesn’t have music and the only things that you hear are related to what you’re seeing on TV (the computer screen, the heartbeat machine in the room, the somewhat stern voice of the narrator), makes you pay close attention. And, we will never forget that sound the computer made every time you typed something or had to search for a file in MS-DOS.

1970s: Aetna, Red bike

The soothing music, seeing the bike cruise down gently to its destination, the pride in the narrator’s voice when he mentions Aetna and all the things that they can protect — this ad really gives you a feeling of security and peace of mind, and that’s exactly what the insurance industry is about.

The 1970s seemed like the perfect decade to ride a red bike everywhere. We don’t know what kind of movie magic the advertisers used to make the bike move without a rider, but we love this ad. It evokes a very dreamy state. Far out, dude!


1970s: Mutual Benefit, Apollo 13’s Jim Lovell

Houston, we don’t have a problem because we have Mutual Benefit. After his many trips around the Moon and the failed mission Apollo 13, Jim Lovell was quite the spokesman, appearing in a myriad of ads. In this one, it seems that the TV ad was filmed at the location of the “old launchpad 19,” possibly from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

And just like a mission to the Moon takes expert planning, make sure that you choose an expert at planning and insurance. Also, Jim Lovell adds credibility to the ad: “Hey, if Lovell trusts them, and he is a national hero, then so should we.”

1960s: Mutual of New York, The M.O.N.Y. man campaign

Ahhh, the 1960s… TV had only been commercialized a mere 10 years before, thus giving birth to pop culture and the cult following of TV. We found a lot of “vintage” 1960s TV ads on YouTube, and most of them were from the French insurance group AXA, which back then was called Mutual of New York or M.O.N.Y.  

This TV spot is mostly a sequence of photos with a voice-over, and we suspect it might actually be from the mid-1950s. The ad also shows us how far we’ve come in TV advertising. It is almost like listening to a soap opera on the radio, but with moving images on the TV. 

What would you do today if you saw an ad like this on TV? Would you think it was part of a prank, or a marketing campaign gone wrong? 

M.O.N.Y. used an “average Joe” for this ad with the purpose of identifying with their customer base. The location it was filmed and even the “actor” seem very raw and real, which gives them credibility. It also evokes a simpler time. 

Mutual of New York has other “vintage” ads from the 1960s you can watch and one even includes moving pictures and sound.

BONUS – Pop culture trivia: The song “Mony Mony” from 1968 by Tommy James and the Shondells is said to have been inspired by Tommy James’s view of the M.O.N.Y. sign atop the Mutual of New York Building in Manhattan, NY.