AXA Equitable “Airplane”

You know times are bad when an 800-pound gorilla in the room is more a source of comfort than of alarm. At any rate, that’s the role the big guy plays in AXA Equitable’s latest venture in gorilla marketing (via Merkley + Partners, New York). A bumpy plane ride is the commercial’s metaphor for the economy’s travails, and a female passenger is looking nervous. In this context, she seems to find it reassuring to have an 800-pound gorilla (her seat-mate) selling her on the concept of annuities as a way to protect assets in “this turbulent market.” The spot’s viewers, assuming they’re on terra firma, are in the position of identifying with the less-scary part of this woman’s plight. That is, they’ll feel “Yes, my 401(k) has collapsed, but at least I’m not about to die in a plane crash.” And that could make them receptive to the scare-plus-reassurance trajectory of AXA’s narrative. (By the way, any airline whose spot airs during the same commercial break ought to demand a make-good.) Since the shortfall in their retirement fund isn’t the worst possible fate on display, viewers may feel more willing than usual to confront this chronic 800-pound gorilla. And while it feels weird to accept retirement-planning advice from a gorilla, he can scarcely do worse than the human “experts” did during the past year. -Mark Dolliver