TBWA\C\D’s ‘Eddie’ Keeps It Simple

LOS ANGELES An animated campaign for the newly won Principal Financial Group represents a noticeable trend in the category, said the executive creative director of Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day.

“All of a sudden, financial services brands are becoming cool brands to work on,” said Rob Schwartz, who oversaw the Playa del Rey, Calif., agency’s first three TV spots, which all broke recently. “Who would have thought they’d be the new athletic shoe or car?”

Schwartz said that as a result of boomers retiring and a rebounding economy, consumers are “going to be more obsessively thinking about their money. Financial services guys will capitalize on that.”

Des Moines, Iowa-based PFG spent $35 million on advertising in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Like the recently launched Charles Schwab campaign, the PFG spots use animation. But whereas the former ads use a hip new technique similar to that seen in the movie Waking Life, the simple, even nostalgic PFG style is intended to represent the “new voice” of the brand, according to Schwartz, one that is “honest, warm and approachable.”

The new spots, by creative directors Chris Lynch and Mike Yagi, feature a man (internally known as “Eddie”) who uses the PFG blue triangle logo as a means to stand above the crowd to get attention or as a bike ramp for jumping over cliffs representing financial hurdles. “We’ll give you an edge” is the tagline in all three commercials.

“It’s a pragmatic way of marrying the end user to the company,” said Schwartz. “We needed to find a piece of the symbol. Lots of companies represent the brands through logos, but it is disruptive to bring the logo to life.” Schwartz said the logo had high awareness, but needed a boost in relevance.

Schwartz said that in examining the category, there was a “sea of sameness: stock shots of empathetic bankers, lots of logos and animal mascots—lions, bulls, whales, reindeer. Everyone was selling the Cape Cod bed-and-breakfast [representing comfortable retirement].”

In contrast, “Eddie,” who Schwartz acknowledges as slightly retro, “articulates the simplicity with which the company operates. They try to make it simple, warm and approachable. That’s who they are as people.”