Ape for annuities

Let’s see. How long is the list of companies whose commercials contain grammatical errors? I can count Boniva, Honey Bunches of Oats, Miller Genuine Draft and a few more I can’t recall at the moment. Today I am adding Honda for its recent tagline: “To each their own.” Sheesh.

Another one has been bugging me, not for its grammar but for its mixed metaphor. What has me puzzled is—as is often the case—how it escaped the smart and well paid execs who craft and place television ads.

Take a look at one of Axa Equitable Life Insurance Company’s most recent spots and tell me if you notice it.

“What do I know? I’m just the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Pick one, guys. It’s either “the 800-pound gorilla” or “the elephant in the room.” These expressions mean two different things, the latter being more apt for Axa’s campaign. Perhaps the elephant failed the audition.

Just before Axa Equitable launched the campaign during the 2007 Super Bowl, the company said in a press release that it sought to encourage the approximately 77 million baby boomers in America to “stop ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the  room” and buy their variable annuities.

 Four years later, the campaign continues. The commercials have won numerous industry awards and still, no one is challenging their metaphorical duplicity. Naturally, retirement planning and life insurance are important subjects that many prefer to ignore; in this vein, the commercials are hitting the intended demographic target. It’s just that Axa has picked the wrong spokesmammal.

Do we need a refresher?

“The elephant in the room” represents a sizeable subject that everyone is aware of but no one wants to talk about. It might be a looming crisis or a relative’s drinking problem. Everyone knows it’s there—it’s too big to ignore—but we pretend not to notice it. 

An “800-pound gorilla” is a bully, a goliath, a behemoth. Just think of the old riddle.

“Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep?”
“Anywhere he wants.”


Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR

7 responses to “Ape for annuities

  1. Sheree Moyer

    Please educate – what is wrong with “to each their own”? Should it be “his” or “her” own??

    • The expression is “to each his own.” One could substitute “her” but the important point is that “each” is singular so it must be followed by a singular possessive pronoun. People get all hung up over the gender thing. Personally, I choose grammatical correctness over political correctness in most cases.

  2. Hate to say it, but “To each their own” is the result of a flaw in the English language — we have no singular, gender-neutral pronouns, possessive or otherwise. The ad execs probably felt that “his” would be exclusive, so they went for a gender-neutral possessive pronoun. Too bad the only one we have is “their” — I believe AP even allows it nowadays, but I’m not sure.

    • I’d be interested to see what AP says. Technically, “he” is intended to be gender neutral but it is no longer viewed that way. I suppose we could say “too each its own,” but then some numbskull would go and insert an apostrophe.

  3. Still, it could have been worse — they could have gone with something like, “To each their’s.”

  4. anonnickus

    Am I seeing the Wordnymph’s “Bain” here? I love the exchange. Bravo to each. Always a fan of the blog.

  5. Polly

    I love the term ‘spokesmammal’.

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