When cute becomes cloying and how to win (and lose) at the car insurance business

Sometimes cute does work in advertising. And sometimes, as a critic of advertising, if you pan something which is cute – or, even more dangerous, includes an animal – you incur the wrath of diverse constituencies, whose hate mail wishes you all manner of unpleasantness.

I learned that the hard way some years ago when I had a go at “Buddy”, Toyota’s long-served Boxer dog, which featured in a series of ads over a long time. I suggested that it was time he was put down…
South Africans do love their dogs…and their Toyotas. And they do love cute.

But I think cute for cute’s sake can detract from the serious point you’re trying to make in your advertising.

Just in case you think it is just me, the grumpy old git, again, let me point out that when latest TV commercial for Sanlam comes on, it’s my wife who yells at me “Change the Channel!” (seriously, which household is it where the women have control over the remote on a normal TV night?).

Titled “Bright Idea” (yo, cool one, copywriting dudes), it features weapons-grade cuteness in the form of a little bicycle-riding girl. She pedals through the streets of a town on the outskirts of San Francisco (and tells us so in what is quite clearly a South African accent) and then heads for a local fire station where, so Wikipedia tells us, a light bulb has been burning continuously (other one or two times it was switched off) for more than 116 years.

With a wise head (and and even wiser copywriter), Miss Cutie Pie asks: “Why can’t we make things to last?”


Cue Sanlam, which will make your money last and keep it going, just like that light bulb.

You went all the way to the States with a local kid (unless you dubbed the sound track afterwards) to make this ad? Didn’t we have anything locally which could have made the same point?

But what really irks me is the cloying cuteness of the whole thing. I’d prefer the people looking after my money to be expert, rather than cute.

So, Sanlam, you get a long-lasting Onion (this will go online and, as people are now beginning to realise, nothing ever dies in cyberspace, so it will be around, somewhere, far into the future.

After starting off with an Onion, I’ll follow it up will another well-deserved Orchid for the people at agency Joe Public (this time Joe Public Unlimited) for the thought-provoking activation they did on behalf on the Apartheid Museum on Human Rights Day.

At selected restaurants around the country, patrons who ate there were presented with an extra bill, that of the human cost of Apartheid.

It was done just like a restaurant bill – but with lives, instead of Rands and cents. And it was sobering. A reminder that the day was not just a “day off” for wining and dining, but for remembering those who sacrificed to get us to where we are today.

bill or rights final
Excellent piece of work, So Orchids to the Apartheid Museum and to Joe Public Unlimited, particularly, for proving that advertising and marketing does have some redeeming social value.

And now for an interesting tale about the power of advertising.

I have been insured through a firm of brokers for ten years, with only one claim and no hassles. This year, when renewal time came around and I had no response to some urgent queries, I got in a huff.

Instantly, thanks to the call-to-action marketing out there, I went on hippo.co.za to get some comparison quotes. After giving details online, I was called back in double quick time and gave some more details, and again in double quick time, got a number of different quotes.

DialDirect was a name which stuck in my mind (as did the five others mind you) and, because it was at the top of the list, I opted for that.

Again, very efficient follow up (within minutes). Gave even more detail and was then sent a detailed quote. I had a query on that, which was handled quickly. Then, finally, and ready to sign, I sent an email to confirm where the insured vehicles would be parked during the day, wanting to be absolutely accurate (as they tell you to be when dealing with insurance).

Three weeks later, I am still waiting for a call back from DialDirect.

That didn’t do much for my mood, so I contacted OUTsurance – this time my train of thought was started by a OUTsurance-branded licence disc holder lying on my desk.
And, surprise, surprise, OutSurance lived up to its claims (or more correctly, the claims of its customers) in its current TV commercials: good, friendly service (even if there were a few extra calls to correct mistakes) and a good rate.


I save R4 000 annually on two cars. And no, I am not being paid to say this.

So, for living up to your promises, OutSurance, you get an Orchid from me.

But, as for DialDirect, I am considering giving you the Onion of Lost Opportunities…but I will get back to you on that. I promise…

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