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Allianz — Another Advertisement Adventure?

Does the German insurer’s global ad campaign reflect larger problems in adapting to the U.S. market?

May 8, 2000

Does the German insurer's global ad campaign reflect larger problems in adapting to the U.S. market?

Germany’s good old Allianz, the bohemoth insurance company, has become a major player in the global insurance marketplace. Whether acquiring other insurers in Europe or banks in South Korea, the firm seems ready, willing and able to transform itself into true global force in the world of finance. Or is it?

Now, as a consumer, you would get a certain feeling of security by having your insurance company on “your side.” “Behind you” would be okay, too. But beside you? One possible explanation for this linguistic mishap can be found in Webster’s dictionary, which explains that Allianz uses an archaic sense of the word “beside.”

That, however, is not exactly what the advertising men and women who concocted the slogan are usually paid to do. Less drastically spoken, it seems the company is having some difficulty in toning up the language it uses in its international ad campaigns.

Given its impressive record of successfully integrating overseas business into its corporate realm, it would seem unfair to conclude that the company itself is archaic. But then again, it is worthwhile remembering that this is not the company’s first international ad campaign that has left a puzzling impression.

Think back a few years. Allianz was the main insurer not only for the construction of Hong Kong’s new airport at Chek Lap Kok, but also for the building of the Tsing Ma Bridge that connects the New Territories with the airport. Allianz was justifiably proud of its involvement and swiftly thought of using the project for a powerful print ad.

It all seemed so perfect: A bird’s eye view of a lone car driving down the world’s longest suspension bridge on a rainy night … and Allianz promising to be there in case something went wrong.

Asian customers quickly realized that the insurer had better be there. In the photo, the car was driving in the right lane which, in Hong Kong, is the wrong lane. As a former British colony, Hong Kong drives on the left-hand side of the road. One would assume that Allianz, an insurer after all, would not be capable of such gross negligence. Nonetheless, the ad is still displayed on the company’s web site.

Probably it’s all just a matter of a careless ad agency saving the expense of sending someone all the way to Hong Kong to photograph the actual bridge. But surely Allianz’s accountants would want to know whether the agency still tried to expense the excursion?

We can only hope that Allianz is not beside itself. However, the fact that two of its current ads — designed to enhance its global image — have instead left a significant impression of doubt and suspicion, we can only hope such an otherwise due-diligence minded firm will pay more attention to the language and customs of the people it targets in future ads.

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