A Dreamgirl’s Dream: 5 Questions With American Family Insurance

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American Family Insurance / Dream Fearlessly / Jennifer Hudson

With the right support, no dream is unattainable. And who better to convey that message than the star of Dreamgirls? That’s why Jennifer Hudson is making her latest advertising appearances these days on behalf of American Family Insurance.

As part of the brand’s “Insure Carefully, Dream Fearlessly” campaign, the multi-award-winning singer and actress stars in a TV spot and longer online film as she gives an aspiring musician on the streets of Atlanta the surprise of a lifetime by joining him in a duet.

Alex Guthrie knew he was playing his guitar in a live event for the brand, but he had no idea that Hudson would lilt into the scene to give him some powerful support. The result is at once predictable and joyful for him, her and the assembled crowd.

In another online short film, Hudson surprises members of the Morehouse College Glee Club in Atlanta as they record a promo for their spring tour.

“American Family Insurance is committed to helping our customers believe in a brighter future and achieve their dreams,” stated AmFam CMO Telisa Yancy (who we interviewed last September) in a press release.

“Our marketing is an important reflection of this, and implores people to dream fearlessly, knowing we’re protecting them along the way. Jennifer’s story embodies the commitment it takes to realize your dream and bring people together through music.”

Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family has been taking on an ever-higher profile beginning with two regional Super Bowl TV advertisements a few years ago, and then another regional Super Bowl commercial starring Hudson in 2015.

We spoke with Dwayne Maddox, advertising director for American Family, about the Dream Fearlessly campaign and working with a powerhouse talent such as Hudson.

bc: Why take this particular approach to the creative, by contrasting an up-and-coming performance in Alex Guthrie with a talent as huge as Jennifer Hudson’s?

Dwayne Maddox AFI American Family InsuranceDwayne Maddox (right): Jennifer is inherently cool but more so, what she did for Alex probably was the coolest part of the day. It was genuine and authentic and in terms of her getting excited about surprising him and learning about him and committing to the goal of being a supporter of his dream. And that’s what the campaign is about—who Jennifer is as a person and pop-culture phenomenon. And allowing us to capture that on camera in a very authentic way along with the idea of support, and that you can count on support.

bc: What did she bring to the campaign?

Maddox: Her personal story. There’s this context, if you go back to her American Idol days, that she was an underdog and doubted herself, yet she went on to become a success with Grammys and Oscars. She brings that fighting spirit to the work. We love working with her for that reason. She’s able to support people in their dreams.

bc: Did this creative start with the notion of working again with Jennifer, or with the concept?

Maddox: We always had Jennifer in the back of our mind because she’d worked with us on the Super Bowl campaign. We didn’t necessarily draw up the idea for her, but once we got to a certain place in the creative process, we found out if she’d be available. And she was.

bc: How do you work with brand ambassadors in ways that not only bring their personal brands to life and make them relatable, but also brings American Family as a business and brand to life?

Maddox: Jennifer is authentic and relatable and doesn’t come off as unreachable from a star perspective, especially when you think about her attributes, her personal story. And with regard to our brand and how we treat it and shoot it—we include our logo and other assets within the spots. We make sure the brand has a seat at the table, and that it should with a phenomenal performer and persona like Jennifer Hudson.

bc: You’ve got an innovative program in Madison called Dreambank that helps local people “dream fearlessly.” How does it work?

Maddox: At Dreambank, people can think through and clarify dreams and aspirations through tools and seminars to help them push toward that. With regard to the campaign, we have an event platform called One Saturday to Dream Fearlessly that allows our agents and other partners in various parts of the country to get involved personally in the campaign.

And then we have events such as with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, who commit to community events on a monthly basis. Corporately, we show up and support them in local markets and include our agency force to go out and do events on their own to support their own communities. And we’re capturing much of that on film and promoting it in social and other channels.

For example, in Atlanta, we adopted a school for a day and put in a seminar for the kids about African-American history, so they could engage with it and identify with some of the most recognized historical figures.


Get more branding insights in our Q&A series. Suggest a Q&A at editor@brandchannel.com.

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