In 2019, global insurer Liberty Mutual entered the brand mascot space with their first spokescharacters LiMu Emu & Doug.
The campaign, with creative content developed by Liberty’s ad agency of record Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), introduced audiences to a pairing that put a twist on classic buddy cop duos. LiMu Emu & Doug are on a mission to stop unsuspecting people from overpaying for insurance coverage. The partners are ready to explain why it’s better to customize your insurance through Liberty Mutual and get exactly what you need instead. Well, Doug can provide more thorough explanations. LiMu’s an emu, after all.
There’s a lot that you might not know about the origins of these characters. How did Liberty Mutual decide to get into the spokescharacter game and where did the ideas for these specific characters come from?
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenna Lebel, Chief Marketing Officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance, Global Retail Markets US, about their partnership with GS&P in creating these characters. Lebel also gave us the inside scoop about Liberty Mutual mascots that might have been (including a misunderstood T. rex living in a modern world), the shorthand that inspires the name “LiMu” for LiMu Emu, and working on commercials amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We also get a rare glimpse at where these characters might go next in 2021 and beyond. Dare I say the Liberty Mutual canon has even more spokescharacters that might make a debut?
LiMu Emu & Doug have been spokescharacters for Liberty Mutual since 2019. Did Liberty Mutual previously have any brand mascots or are these characters fresh representatives?
LiMu Emu & Doug are the first official brand mascots of Liberty Mutual. Prior to their 2019 launch, Liberty’s advertising centered around consistent construct-driven campaigns, like our long-running Truth Tellers campaign which leverages a consistent setting on the boardwalk in front of the Statue of Liberty and runs in-market alongside LiMu & Doug today.
We had a lot of success with our Truth Tellers campaign and wanted to continue to find a way to keep Liberty Mutual top of mind with consumers. Branded spokescharacters presented an opportunity to do just that. When we set out to develop the new spokescharacters we knew they needed to be memorable to stand out and breakthrough in the competitive insurance space. We developed over a dozen concepts and put them in front of over 18,000 consumers in both quantitative and qualitative settings. LiMu Emu & Doug rose to the top with consumers and with us. The buddy duo was familiar to people, but there was this unexpected twist of a man with a flightless bird that made it humorous and unforgettable.
What were the conversations like in trying to determine what, or who, the brand mascots for Liberty Mutual would be? How did you reach the point of an emu with a human?
We were truly open to all types of spokescharacters during the exploration phase of campaign development. What set LiMu Emu & Doug apart from other options was the unexpected twist on the familiar buddy-duo genre that’s existed in pop culture for decades. The characters were one part familiar and one part unexpected. The fresh take on that familiar trope and it gave us the ability to bring to life our message – Liberty Mutual customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need – in a truly fun way. Not only does LiMu rhyme with Emu, but it’s also shorthand for Liberty Mutual.
We had a lot of fun during development and saw over a dozen great concepts. To name a couple, we looked at a talking pigeon in yellow pants who lived on Liberty Island and a misunderstood tyrannosaurus rex living in a modern world.
What messages do LiMu Emu & Doug share regarding Liberty Mutual with audiences?
LiMu Emu & Doug think it’s a crime to overpay for insurance so they are constantly trying help our customers get the best value out of their insurance policy by customizing their coverage, so they have the exact coverage they need and save money.
In recent work, they’ve highlighted some of Liberty Mutual’s digital products, like our Coverage Customizer Tool, which gives customers discounts and recommendations, so they only pay for what they need. LiMu & Doug will continue to talk about new and innovative products that can help customers get the right coverage they need and drive savings. And we’ll continue to do that in a way that resonates with audiences.
Goodby Silverstein & Partners helped develop the creative content surrounding the duo. How would you describe their dynamic and respective personalities?
The partnership with Goodby has been exceptional, and their creative prowess and strategic guidance in the development of the campaign cannot be overstated.
As a team, we have a strong sense of who the characters are and aren’t. Doug is a passionate and highly trained customized insurance expert…and LiMu is a wild bird. LiMu does not speak but tends to take the spotlight away from Doug. They have a long, untold to this point, history and are partners and best friends in addition to being the dynamic duo of the insurance world.
What about the origins of the character names?
LiMu Emu solidified his name before Doug did. LiMu is a play on Liberty Mutual, and just happens to rhyme with emu. GS&P brought the name with the concept fully formed. We went through a few options before we landed on Doug’s name, but as soon as we heard it, we knew it was the one.
The matching outfits are a fantastic detail. Who came up with the idea that the pair would dress alike, or as alike as possible for an emu and human?
From the first concept meeting, we were aligned with GS&P that our duo would have matching uniforms. As we got into further development of the characters and who they are – we dove deep into the uniforms and accessories they’d each wear. With the exception of pants, LiMu wears everything Doug does — including the iconic aviators.
What are some of your favorite commercials over the years?
We have quite a few rounds of production and final ads under our belt at this point, and they each bring their own unique qualities.
For me, the ‘Volleyball’ spot that ran in 2019 into 2020 rises to the top. The ad is memorable, funny, and shows everyone a glimpse into LiMu Emu & Doug’s lives outside of work, and how even during an intense game of beach volleyball, Doug can’t help but to be laser-focused on customized coverage so people only pay for what they need.
Another one of my favorites is “Filter” which is the spot where LiMu & Doug are video chatting and Doug accidentally applies various filters, including a LiMu one (which doesn’t go over well with LiMu). It was a very scrappy production filmed at “Doug’s” home when production in LA was shut down during the pandemic, but you could never tell by looking at the finished spot.
It’s my understanding that LiMu is a CGI emu and not a real emu, correct? What all goes into creating a CGI emu and how does it get properly animated for ad campaigns?
That’s right. In our ads LiMu is mostly CGI, which gives us the ability to show him doing specific scripted actions – like running on the treadmill in our current “Gym” spot.
We worked with GSP and The Mill to develop the CG model for LiMu in the upfront of the campaign. We underwent a thorough development exploratory to ensure the model’s look and texture – and the team brings each of LiMu’s animations to life based on our original model. We do typically have emus on set, along with animal safety supervisors, to get a good frame of reference, but we use CG to augment what we’re able to capture on film.
What has the audience reception to LiMu Emu and Doug been like since the ads debuted?
The reaction from consumers has been tremendous. Consumers have been so generous in their feedback and fandom. We hear from fans of all ages on social. Halloween has become an especially fun time of year – we’ve seen LiMu Emu & Doug costumes on adults, children, babies, and even pets! And we’re starting to see LiMu Emu & Doug in pop culture as well with mentions on both Saturday Night Live and Jeopardy! recently.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, LiMu Emu and Doug have remained funny and relatable as they gradually re-enter the next normal. What do you think the future has in store for these characters?
We talk often about what’s next for LiMu Emu & Doug. In the future, we’ll see them sharing new digital products and savings opportunities with customers in new and exciting ways. They will continue to bring their enthusiasm for customized coverage everywhere they go as we see them in new settings and situations. We’ll likely start seeing more of their inner circle through the introduction of new characters as we start to tell more of their long history as partners and best friends. Not much is off limits with this duo.
We also get a lot of social love for the female emu in our ads – she’s been in two, including our “Grilling Out” spot that’s currently on air. She’s LiMu’s partner and her name is Linda.
Keep up with LiMu Emu & Doug’s latest (and ongoing) antics at @LiMuEmuDoug on Twitter!
Image credits: Liberty Mutual