Ad Space – Limu Emu (& Doug)

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Liberty Mutual Insurance

The Promotions:

The Pitch:
Listen to Limu Emu … well, don’t listen, they mostly just make squawks and screeches, but take Doug’s word for what Limu meant to say.

I know not many of you will agree – there have been many comments in past Ad Spaces about how much folks hate omnipresent insurance commercials – but I think these Limu Emu (& Doug) commercials are forking brilliant.

To me, at least, they work as a hilarious piece of self-parody. It’s clear that Limu Emu is modeled after the animal mascots used by other insurance companies, like the Aflac Duck or the Geico Gecko. But throughout these ads, I get the clear impression that the people making them think Liberty Mutual’s demand for a mascot of their own is stupid – and these ads are all about showing why.

Consider the name, Limu Emu. The implication is that someone wanted an animal that would rhyme with the name of the company, like gecko and Geico. Except there aren’t any animals that rhyme with “Liberty Mutual” – but if you shorten Liberty Mutual to Li Mu, that rhymes with emu, now doesn’t it? That no one in history has ever called Liberty Mutual “Limu” … it’s such a ridiculously contorted attempt at branding, I kind of have to believe it was meant as parody.

Backing this up is how Limu behaves. It doesn’t talk up the product in a soothing British accent like a certain lizard, or blare the company name like a certain water fowl. Limu, instead … is just an emu. One that Liberty Mutual has forced into a jacket and sunglasses, but that still just squawks and pecks and runs around like the wild animal that it is. Even when Limu doesn’t actively freak out potential customers, they still never do anything to promote the product. Because, again, just an emu.

That’s where Doug comes in. The implied backstory for these commercials is that the advertisers realized how terrible an idea it was to have an emu as a spokesperson … but they weren’t about to give up on the emu! No, they’d still use the bird, make it the the star, but maybe pair it up with a human, someone who can corral it around, keep things on topic, and, y’know, actually use language to communicate.

And they end up getting a guy who goes way to the other extreme. Someone who gets frighteningly intense about proselytizing Liberty Mutual, who puts 110% into making these ads work … even as they take second billing to an emu (that quiet “… and Doug” is such an afterthought), and even as they have to pretend this large, unruly bird is an integral part of the operation.

Maybe it’s ’cause I’ve spent far too much time thinking about the thought processes behind commercials, but I can’t watch Limu Emu (& Doug) without picturing a harried cadre of advertisers frantically trying to salvage something out of Liberty Mutual’s incessant demands for a mascot, and coming up with something utterly janky and bizarre in the process. I find that hysterical.

(Of course, even given that I like the base premise of the ads, I will concede that the literally dozens of ads they’ve made with these two might be overdoing it a tad.)