Why an Insurance Company Created a Scented Print Ad That Releases the ‘New-Car Smell’

GS&P hopes to form a sensory link between Liberty Mutual and car shoppers

Liberty Mutual created an ad that it hopes will stick in the memories of car buyers. Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Call it eau de new car.

To entice auto buyers, insurer Liberty Mutual is running a print ad with a peel-back fragrance strip—the same kind used to sell perfumes. Only instead of citrus and sandalwood, it’s going for that heady and ambiguous cocktail of vinyl and plastic gases that come with a ride fresh off the manufacturer’s assembly line.

The ad, created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, ran in Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Sun Times, and is part of a clever bid to use sense memory as a way of associating Liberty Mutual with the process of test-driving or buying a new car. These are times when, according to the research behind the agency’s strategy, people are likely to start thinking about getting a quote for insurance.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners

“To engage with a consumer during this specific moment where they’re making a decision about their insurance would be very challenging, even if we put a large media spend behind it,” says a statement from the agency about the campaign strategy. “So we used a print ad that would give people a Pavlovian response to catch car buyers at the moment that matters most.”

In other words, the marketer is hoping real-life new car smell “will trigger subconscious memories about the Liberty Mutual ad they previously saw.”

This concept does, however, hinge on the idea of the new-car smell being a good thing. In recent years, some watchdogs have been raising flags about the hundreds of chemicals used in auto interiors and contributing to the smell via outgassing.

New-car smell has also created a cultural roadblock for some automakers, with Ford reportedly working to get rid of the aroma (basically by baking the cars to force out gases faster) in a bid to sell more cars in China, where consumers apparently don’t share the American appreciation for volatile organic compounds.

CREDITS:

Ad Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Client: Liberty Mutual Insurance
Title of Creative Work: Scented Ad
Live Date: 4/28/19
Client
Chief Marketing Officer: Emily Fink
VP, Brand and Integrated Marketing: Jenna Lebel
Manager, Broad Reach Media: Lisa Paige
Program Manager, Broad Reach Marketing: Rachel Pannullo
Creative
Chief Creative Officer: Margaret Johnson
Executive Creative Director: Danny Gonzalez
Executive Creative Director: David Suarez
Associate Creative Director: Josh Hacohen
Associate Creative Director: Jeff Fang

Production
Director of Graphic Services: Jim King
Account Services
Managing Partner: Brian McPherson
Group Account Director: Chris Ferko
Account Director: Cassi Norman
Account Manager: Tom Yadron
Assistant Account Manager: Haley Grialou
Brand and Communication Strategy
Head of Brand Strategy: Bonnie Wan
Group Communication Strategy Director: Dong Kim
SR. Research & Analytics Strategist: Jessica Badrous
SR. Brand Strategist: Marisa Perazzelli
Business Affairs
Director of Business Affairs: Judy Ybarra
Print Production Company: Colorbar Graphic Construction
Founder: Stephen Cross


@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.
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