Advertising Metaphor Failure?

I've seen this ad for Northwestern Mutual running this afternoon while watching the PGA championship, and while I get the point they're trying to make, I think a closer look at the metaphor undercuts the ad's message. Here's the ad.



For those who can't view it, there's a pitcher, a catcher, and a scout with a radar gun, all under the lights at a pristine baseball field. The first pitch (in slo-mo for some reason) hits the unmoving catcher's mitt with a satisfying pop, and the requisite poetic dust explodes in a halo. Cut to the radar gun where the number 98 flashes. And then the pitcher does it again--same spot, same speed, same satisfying pop. The voiceover is saying something along the lines of "anyone can prove their strength once; the question is consistency."

Well, in baseball, yes and no. Yes, it's important that you be able to throw that pitch consistently, but you don't want it to be too consistent. Even an Independent League benchwarmer can hit a 98 mph fastball if it's in the same spot every time. You've got to have movement, both in speed and location, or you'll get hammered. So on the baseball level, it doesn't quite work, at least not for me.

But it works even less on the services level. Northwestern Mutual's big boast in the ad is that it's paid out more in dividends than anyone else over the last twelve years. Set aside for a moment that that's not necessarily a measure of consistency--12 years is a pretty arbitrary period of time, and totals can be really thrown off by a single big year (or a single bad one). The real problem is that lately, consistency has been linked to corruption. Bernie Madoff was consistent. Allen Stanford was consistent. Right now, an admission that my company took it in the teeth the last couple of years (and mine did, let me tell you) would be a mark of trustworthiness.

I'm also curious as to why they'd run a baseball-themed commercial during a golf tournament, especially when an image of a guy hitting driver after driver past the 300 yard marker, the golf balls clustering and bouncing off each other, would provide a much better visual and would get the same point across. Admittedly, most people probably won't think about the ad this much--I don't think about most ads myself. I try to avoid watching them whenever possible. This one just happened to catch my attention.

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