Historical analysis of Aflac Boat advertisement.

This is an Aflac insurance ad that first aired in 2012. In the commercial, two ordinary men are discussing insurance care issues and financial holes on a fishing boat while the duck tries to cover the water leaks to keep them afloat.

We are living in an era where having an insurance policy is almost a mandatory obligation. And because our views on insurance have been transformed, the ads are more tailored to appeal to our emotional experiences. This Alfac ad also displays images of people and daily affairs as central subjects. The style of the advertisement is fairly simple and easily comprehensible. It isn’t excessively elaborate and gives a decent amount of information about the service that the company offers. Storyline focuses on everyday human experiences. The characters are also relatable ordinary men. They are discussing any problems that fathers and husbands can identify with. What is interesting is that the man with the cast is fulfilling the role of ‘cultural intermediary’ within the commercial, by introducing the carefree services that Aflac offers to his friend. Even though Aflac is not a product selling company, it still pertains to aspects of therapeutic ethos. The financial service that insurance companies offers fulfills the insecurity and lacks that people feel and also covers for any future risks.

Especially since the Great recession of 2008, we are living in a time of economic and financial distress. The worldwide uneasiness has influenced many households in the United States. Another time period in history can be brought to attention that experienced extreme economic crisis, which is the Great depression of 1930s. Even though the era that we are living in is different in many spheres, there are certain similarities that the Aflac ad from 2012 shares with ads from the Great depression of 1930s.

Some apparent differences are that the ads during the Great depression were very hard sell, loud, and focused more on price issues than the quality of the product. Also it often resorted to sensationalism. Compared to those ads, the Aflac ad is soft sell and quality centered; yet it does exhibit a mild hint of sensationalism. It plays on people’s fears of becoming physically injured, cheated of monetary rights, not receiving any child care, and many other financial fears that people live with on a daily basis. It also touches on a sense of guilt that fathers may have for not being able to provide the family necessary support. As previously stated, insurance is no longer a luxurious expenditure but is a necessity. And thus the style of the contemporary ads may have become less overt but still touches on our guilt and shame of not having money.

Back in the early 20th century, the problem lied with putting actual food on the table, but in modern days it is more about preservation of money; saving more and spending less. And we are constantly overcome by the notion of being prepared for future incidents. The Aflac ad reflects this financial insecurity of the contemporary period, and even though it is not exaggerated or forceful the ad tries exploit our economic anxiety for the benefit of the company.

– YouJeong June K.


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