Even financial companies have to admit that selling retirement services with images of silver foxes tending their vines and chino’d couples on safari is harder to do these days with a straight face. Sixty-five is becoming the new 45, after all. And retirement comes with a whole new set of assumptions and concerns. Add to this leaner economic times and widespread distrust in financial institutions, and selling retirement planning acquires yet another new wrinkle. All of which has led Prudential to take a new, real-people focused tack in its latest ad campaign.
"Some deals look too good to be true," says Kevin Brady, Group Creative Director at New York-based agency, Droga5. "There might have been a time when people believed too-good-to-be-true, but not anymore." To combat an epidemic of disbelief in a time when more people are retiring than ever before in history, Droga5 created a new campaign steeped in reality: real people telling real stories about retirement. The results are part of an initiative called "Day One."
After doing its ad work in-house for years, Prudential tapped hotshop Droga5 in 2010 to ramp up its corporate branding efforts. When the retirement brief came around, the agency team determined that the best way to find out what retirement actually looks like right now was to hear from the retirees themselves. Recent Prudential ads have dropped statistics on the topic, but this latest campaign takes a closer look at a sampling of some of the real, live people behind those numbers. Some of those featured in the commercial are prepared for retirement—some are not. "Prudential was not afraid of reality," Brady says.
Stars of the "Day One" campaign
Droga5, New York
Executive Creative Directors//
Ted Royer, Nik Studzinski
Group Creative Director//
Graham Douglas, Michelle Hirschberg, Colin Lord
Head of Integrated Production//
Interactive Production Company//
In the initiative’s first phase, the team culled thousands of photos from a diverse group of people starting their first day of retirement (hence "Day One.") Finding the right people to profile proved to be a group effort. Droga5 and Prudential worked with a combination of casting resources from all over the U.S., including scouting agents from reality television. The agency team didn’t want actors, so they reached out to companies with a track record for finding and wrangling average people. Out of the thousands of prospective retirees contacted, a thousand replied and were later whittled down to 200 people, most of whom happened to be decent photographers.
"It turns out the sunrise is a very forgiving photo subject," Brady says of the 5,000 usable images his team received documenting the shooters’ first morning of retirement. Those photos were used in launch TV spot for the campaign.
The second phase of the campaign is even more revealing. "We saw an opportunity to go deeper and we did," says Brady. Out of all the people whose pictures were used in the first TV spot, Droga5 selected five to visit and film for short individual videos. "These documentaries captured a range of people coming to retirement from different perspectives," says Colin McConnell, head of advertising for Prudential. "Overall, though, they reflected a tone of informed optimism."
After interviewing these subjects, cameramen filmed them going about their day. The footage this process produced doesn’t scan as scripted because it isn’t. "For lack of a better word, I just didn’t want to suck as a father or a grandfather," says retired clothes salesman, Mujahid Abdul-Rashid, in a typical testimonial.
All of the short videos are available for viewing on the newly launched website, DayOneStories.com. In addition to the videos, there are dozens of photos of newly retired folks and capsule profiles about them. The original TV spot is still airing, and it will soon be joined during Thanksgiving week by new ads that spotlight individual stories and wisdom from some of the people like Abdul-Rashim who were filmed in their hometowns. Finally, outdoor ads will also increase, expanding to airports, billboards, and unique photo installations.