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AIG Pulls Flight of National Corporate Ads

Campaign's Theme Was 'Strength to Be There'

By Published on . 2

YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- In the midst of a government bailout, American International Group is pulling all of its corporate advertising through the end of the year -- all of which is themed, ironically, "The Strength to Be There."
AIG's 'Strength to Be There' spots will no longer be running.
AIG's 'Strength to Be There' spots will no longer be running.

An AIG spokesman said the move affects only corporate ads. "This is in light of the current challenging financial environment that we're facing," he said. "But our many business units in the U.S. and around the world are continuing to market their products."

Children say the craziest things
The TV ads no longer running had two main themes. One set featured cute children who can't sleep or enjoy a vacation because they were concerned about complex financial issues. They tell their worries to their parents, who quickly reassure the little moppets that everything is indeed OK, because: "We're with AIG."

The second set of ads featured adults and babies (in the manner of homemade YouTube videos) singing, hanging out with their pets and having a good time, with the upshot from AIG that doing these things adds some years to your life. The voice-over intones, "Live longer, retire stronger, never outlive your money."

Omnicom Group's BBDO, AIG's agency, referred calls to the client. The marketer spent $64 million through the first half of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and $118.7 million for all of 2007.

The advertising pullback, however, won't affect a direct-mail piece that is getting a lot of internet attention. The postcard that arrived in potential customers' mail early this week had a single sentence on the front: "If disaster strikes, will you have the protection you need?" It was sent from the AIG Private Client Group, which is one of the business units that will continue local advertising efforts. The question on the card was referring to earthquake insurance.

No escaping the blogosphere
Jesse Kongos, author of the satirical blog ipoopdaily.com, received the card and posted an image of it on his blog yesterday. He held up the postcard in front of a computer with a CNBC news page and the headline "AIG to Get $85 Billion Loan, Give Up 80% Stake." The story quickly hit the front page of Digg.com, where it remains.

Mr. Kongos, a musician in Phoenix, said he couldn't believe the direct piece was in his mailbox. "Maybe it was fate," he joked, considering the satirical nature of his blog. "But given the few weeks they must have had to prepare it, they had to know this was coming, right? I don't know, maybe it was some last-ditch marketing effort."

AIG had also begun to catch heat from bloggers and media today when some noted that the "Strength to Be There" ads were still running over the weekend, even as AIG worked to hammer out a bailout agreement with the federal government. That agreement culminated in the announcement early today.

"Surreal is watching an AIG ad like this one below on CNBC while we all live through one of the big financial crises in history," blogger Michael Parekh posted at his site, "Michael Parekh on IT," on Monday. "Perhaps next time around something like this happens, hopefully not for a few decades, advertising will have gotten automated and targeted enough to pull at inopportune moments."
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