The General Taps Shaquille O’Neal in Emotional Insurance Ad Campaign

Shaquille O’Neal says he turned to The General when he was in college and no one would give him a good price on car insurance. “When I was in college, The General was the only insurance I could afford,” he says in an interview.

These days, he’s helping the company win new recruits.

Once known primarily for sprinkling dozens of direct-response ads around cable, The General is changing tactics. Starting on Tuesday, the company will launch a three-part video series on WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report that features O’Neal visiting Atlanta businesses to learn how owners and staff have grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. New episodes of the three-part series will debut each Tuesday.

“I wanted to support everyday people,” says O’Neal. “It’s very hard for people out there.”

TV viewers may best know The General for the dozens of ads it has peppered around the TV landscape, which feature an animated senior armed-forces officer commanding consumers to consider the company’s insurance products. In February, however, the company launched a new advertising effort aimed to burnish an image as a higher-quality insurance provider.

“We have a desire to just show more about the company and go beyond the messages that you have heard from us,” Elicia Azali, The General’s chief revenue officer, says in an interview.

The General is marching in a formation that others in its sector have already adopted. Many insurance companies, ranging from Geico to Progressive to Allstate to State Farm, have continued to spend during the pandemic, with commercials that utilized humor and quirky characters.

Many advertisers have begun to embrace programming of the sort, in addition to traditional commercials. Many of the new broadband video outlets run fewer ads than their linear TV counterparts, and some of the most popular streamers — Netflix and Disney Plus among them — don’t allow commercials at all. A new generation of couch potatoes has grown accustomed to that model, which makes the task of pitching soda, sneakers and smartphones much thornier for decades-long sponsors like Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple.

The General spent approximately $134.7 million on advertising in 2020, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. The company spent the most on syndicated talk programs like “Maury,” “Judge Jerry” and “The Steve Wilkos Show,” according to Kantar.

In addition to Bleacher Report, the vignettes will surface on the outlet’s social media channels, including the Bleacher Report app and the House of Highlights Instagram channel. The series will also be shown via The General’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

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