March 18, 2010

The French are famously passionate. Sometimes they can be passionate about some rather odd things: ideas, cheese, Johnny Hallyday.

The latest manifestation of these erratically-directed enthusiasms is AXA’s professed passion for ‘respect on the road.’

A new website of that name invites visitors to “share our passion and help to bring courtesy and respect back to British roads.” Alarmingly it notes that “inexperienced drivers all too often give themselves away behind the wheel of a car” – which certainly sounds like a dangerous thing to do, particularly if the car is moving at the time.

It’s all part of the multi-million-pound launch of AXA’s first direct assault on the car insurance buying public. With the slogan “Experienced Drivers Wanted” and the alluring promise of 90% discounts for those not in the habit of making claims, AXA has sensible drivers squarely in its sights.

Visitors to the company’s new Respect on the Road website will literally marvel at its vast array of content aimed at the “more experienced” driver. For example:

Item 1: Charley Boorman kicks off the Respect campaign by checking out who has the most annoying horn.

Item 2: Download the aptly named AxaDent iPhone app, which talks you through what to do if you want to make a motor insurance claim, and even allows you to capture photos of any vehicle damage following an accident.

Item 3: Watch power-dressed people barge, assault and shout at one another on a crowded sidewalk as the YouTube version of the latest AXA TV ad shows what it would be like if pedestrians were as disrespectful as car drivers – until finally a smug man in an executive saloon cruises blithely past them through a red light, and the ‘regular geezer’ voice-over tells us:

With AXA, experience can bring its own rewards,” – as opposed, presumably, to the rewards more properly pertaining to some other quality or attribute – “Up to 90% no claims discount on your car insurance. Experienced drivers wanted. AXA: redefining standards.”

Redefining standards, incidentally sounds like a great idea. That old thing about “rules by which to measure quality or quantity” is really starting to sound a bit old hat.

Item 4: Blogger The Respecter fumes, with throbbing temples, about how his tranquil enjoyment of Radio 4’s Play for Today has been rudely interrupted at a roundabout when “some imbecile coming the other way suddenly lurches in front of me, as he idiotically exits right without indicating his intentions.”

Perhaps The Respecter’s tag is intended ironically. Channeling Victor Meldrew certainly seems an odd way of promoting respect for fellow road-users.

His supposed middle-aged credentials look slightly shaky too. Shouldn’t he know his Afternoon Play from his Play for Today. Would-be deft-touch details like being told by his doctor to give up Battenberg cake for the sake of his heart are surely laying it on a little thick. Stand by for references to cardigans and slippers in future postings.

Items 5, 6, 7 &c.: Much, much, more….

So what about that crazy TV ad?

“Who needs another car insurance company?” ask WMO, the advertising agency responsible for the TV ads, on their website. “When AXA launched into this market they needed a campaign that would be talked about, while attracting the right kind of customer. By contrasting how ridiculously some people behave on the road with the value of experience, AXA has a campaign idea that not only communicates the benefits for experienced drivers but can also stimulate a genuine social debate.”

That debate looks set to run and run, with occasional breaks for a nice cuppa and a spot of sudoku, or when the grandchildren come round.


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