AIG was having all kinds of trouble remaining solvent when it received a government bailout before proceeding to commit multiple PR blunders in succession, particularly paying some $450 million in staff bonuses after receiving substantial government subsidies. But they do have one friend left.
As a rule, people have preferred to disassociate themselves from the embattled financial company. But not this man, who is perhaps the only person on the planet who has actually benefitted socially from his relationship with AIG.
You may not know his name, but you’ll certainly recognize his face as the father in the hugely-successful Butterflies TV ad that ran nationally for AIG. In the ad, actor and stand-up comic DC Benny plays a father who, when confronted by his young daughter about potential financial pitfalls, claims he is so at ease thanks to the work of AIG that all he can think about are butterflies. The success of the ad gave Benny some nice currency as an actor while the company’s pratfalls gave the ad a second life online and gave Benny some new material for his stand-up act.
“Honestly, when they did this ad I didn’t know what AIG was,” says Benny. “People wouldn’t know what AIG was, but they would remember it [the commercial]. There would be people saying, ‘oh, you’re in that AIG ad.” The company shelved the ad in the midst of the pounding they took from the media, but the spot resurfaced online, as did countless parodies, turning the once-successful campaign into a viral hit.
Oddly enough, Benny wasn’t ill prepared for the AIG downfall. One of his previous ads was for Enron. “I wondered ‘is this a trend?’ The worst part, aside from the obvious crap, was we had just renegotiated for that commercial for a nice sum. Then the whole thing hit the fan. I called my agent and he said they were pulling all advertising with precocious children and clueless adults,” says Benny. “I’ve done a bunch of commercials but I don’t think any of them went to the point where my agent could renegotiate a higher check. We renegotiated and I got one check and then the plug got called.”
While DC Benny’s acting career hit a momentary roadblock, his stand-up material found an interesting new wrinkle. “When I mention I’m in the commercial onstage, people immediately laugh,” he says. “It’s not even a joke. I don’t really have to say much else.”