Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pemco, we're a lot like you: White

Plastered all over billboards and buses in my area, Pemco advertises their insurance (for what, I don't know).  The intimacy-inducing motto is, "we're a lot like you."  The pictures portray quirky Northwesterners: white-beared Bainbridge architect, 50 degrees shirt off guy, WallaWalla WineWine WomanWoman, gluten-free no-refined sugar soy allergy lady, goat renter guy.

It is pretty funny to see our local oddities called out larger than life, except one thing really bugs me.  All us personality-laden people seem to be white.

For probably about a year now I've been watching the ads, wondering about the whiteness of them.  Is it some ad agency's mindless oversight?  Does the insurance agency really not want to attract people of color for some reason?  Are race and class so mixed that people of color don't fall into the target audience for insurance - because really most of the not-white people I know still drive cars, see doctors and have children they want to protect in case of their death. Maybe the ads are carefully targeted to the demographics of the local population and so my white-self only sees white people ads.  No, wait, I live in the most diverse zip code in the US so that can't be it.

Personally, I'd want my ad agency to be a little more on top of this sort of image management.

Once, for just a short run, there was a woman who looked Asian in the ads.  She and her pooch represented the dog park devoted personalities. I did sigh with relief that nothing about the picture jumped out at me as being racist or stereotypical.  But the ad only ran a week or so.

A quick visit over to the Pemco site yields a variety of quirky Northwesterners of color.  Somehow these haven't made it to the mass public outreach.

I'd like to finish this post with some jaunty summary or witty remarks, but I find I'm at a loss.  Have you seen the signs?  Notice any people of color?  How do the ads seem to you?


Rod Brooks said...

Sara –

My name is Rod Brooks, and I’m the chief marketing officer for PEMCO Insurance. I saw your post and am writing to join the conversation, and to perhaps answer some of your questions.

About your first question, PEMCO is a property and casualty insurer – our main lines of insurance are home, auto and life, and we serve Washington state residents. As a mutual insurance company, we’re owned by our policyholders.

About your questions re: our ad campaign – We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different: We created the campaign to celebrate the values – and quirks – we share with our Washington neighbors. We agree with you wholeheartedly that one of the special things about our region is its diversity. We’ve worked hard to make sure our campaign reflects that.

Our campaign incorporates a mix of traditional media -- radio, TV, transit, outdoor. The campaign also includes a robust grass-roots element that uses profile trading cards and other collateral. So, depending upon whether you watch TV, listen to the radio, drive on certain roads, or which community events you attend, you’re likely seeing just a subset of the entire campaign, which includes the people of color you saw on our website.

A current example is “Skis in the Rain Guy.” He’s the focus of our most recent round of advertising and appeared on transit ads all across the region in the first quarter of 2010. Other examples from the current campaign have been “Marymoor Off-Leash Dog Lady” and a TV commercial titled “Tire Store.”

I appreciate your comments – we learn from listening to our customers and neighbors.


Northwest Marketing Guy

Qarin said...

I've seen "you go, no you go, no you go guy" and "marymoor offleash dog park lady" out in the world (buses or billboards, most likely). Maybe you need to come down to Burien more... ;)

olliemom said...

I'm in Greenwood and have only seen Marymoor offleash dog park lady. Big props for getting attention from "the man," Sara! Maybe we'll see some more diversity in the ad campaign as a result!

The nitty-gritty tales of a housewife said...

Hi sara, first timer here; i was just surfing through blogs to find one that i like.Alas! read yours & i said to myself;'SEEMS SHE IS NOT RACIST INCLINED, SO LET ME SAY MY PIECE. You see Sara, i started blogging October last year & it had been a mixed feeling;i had observed a RACIAL & GENERATIONAL BIAS! I thought blogging was all about NETWORKING?

Sara said...

Hi Nitty Gritty.

Thanks for your comment. The blogging world is indeed a mixed bag. Lots of people I agree with and love learning from and quite a few I think are stark raving mad!

I'm not clear from your comment - are you finding my blog racist and generationally biased or just the www in general?

Honestly, I usually assume that I carry tons of privilege (race, class, citizenship) and bias that really color who I am and how I see/describe the world. What I hope makes me different from those I see as crazy is that I want to learn and grow and am open to feedback.

Welcome to my blog,

Sken! said...

I must laugh at all of this. Too funny!