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Prudential, talking life and death

A Prudential billboard went up near me lately with a terrific line on it. Every time I go past it, it gets me thinking.

Prudential billboard

“The first person to live to 150 is alive today.”

First, I marveled at the boldness of the prediction, and the staggering idea of living to 150, something no human has achieved as far as we know. Then I thought, “Hmm, some little baby in Japan is still going to be alive in 2163. Incredible.” Then I made the mental leap to asking, what if it’s possible, given the advances in medicine, that I could live that long? I suspect that’s the train of thought the ad writers were hoping for.

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This is part of a broader campaign by Prudential that’s appearing in magazines and on TV.

Prudential magazine ad

There’s more about the campaign here.

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Here’s why I like this campaign.

Think about all the directions you can take when advertising financial services. You could brag about the selection of funds you offer. You could tout the convenience of your website or apps. You could promise to solve all the things that suck about your category, such as high fees, confusing programs, and advisors who give dodgy advice. You could spout generally positive statements about wealth and financial security.

Prudential’s campaign doesn’t say much about brand benefits at all. It talks about your inevitable death! “How old is the oldest person you’ve known?” is simply a socially polite way to ask, “When will you die?” And “Let’s get ready for a longer retirement” is a socially polite way to say, “Don’t die poor.”

Sounds harsh, but that’s what’s honestly on your mind when you’re putting together a retirement plan: Death. Prudential’s ads are a nice study in how to address a grim idea head-on, in the most positive language possible. Who’s ready for 150?

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Signage, Television

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