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From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

The Museum of Recent History

Finalist in Instagram


Coming out of the pandemic, Northwestern Mutual saw Americans collectively experiencing a “Great Realization” – a realization that it was time to stop waiting for a perfect moment and start planning right now for the lives we’ve always wanted to live. Our objective with this campaign was to forge a connection to this cultural moment in a way that reached our target audience, millennials, on the platforms where they already go for fun, education, and entertainment. Our goals were to drive engagement and also build intrigue for our soon-to-launch integrated tv campaign, The Great Realization, that played on these same themes. The Museum of Recent History was born from these considerations.

We launched our digital-only museum as a one week takeover of the Northwestern Mutual Instagram channel, the week before the debut of our tv campaign. Through creative use of Instagram’s native features, including in-feed content, video stories, and highlights, the Museum took a humorous look at the things we were able to collectively leave behind after the pandemic as we instead made plans to pursue what was really important to us. This teaser campaign helped create buzz and excitement, in a way that felt different from the sea of sameness often seen in the Financial Services industry. It made our target audience take notice and laugh alongside us, all while considering how a Northwestern Mutual Financial Advisor could make a difference in their own lives.

Strategy and Execution

With a limited budget and no external agency support to rely on, our internal social and creative teams needed an idea for a teaser campaign that resonated with our target audience and made them stop their scroll and pay attention. Which meant that we needed something that looked and felt completely different than traditional Financial Services marketing.

After discussing our own personal realizations coming out of the pandemic, and the many stories we’d heard from our clients, we noticed that so many of us had shared experiences over the past few years. Experiences that, in many cases, we were ready to put behind us as we began to pursue the goals and dreams we’d been putting off too long for an elusive “Someday,” instead of today.

So, to reflect the idea of starting over, we also took a leap of faith — by deleting or archiving every single piece of social content posted to the Northwestern Mutual Instagram channel in the past. Years of content; gone in an instant.

With this new clean slate, we rebranded the channel profile photo, bio, and description in order to fully commit to the Museum concept. The new stark white backdrop and in-feed exhibits in glass cases reflected the feel of a traditional museum. However, the artifacts on display were not objects of antiquity, but relics from the lives so many of us just recently led like the "Awkward Family Zoom Call" or "Tiny Nightstand Used as a Desk." Daily Instagram stories supported the in-feed visuals by sharing the behind-the-scenes details of how the Museum came to be; the heartfelt stories of our “Museum donors” and of course, our very eager “Museum security guard.”

Finally, after seven days of record-breaking social engagements for the brand and generating millions of earned impressions, our Museum had to come to a close. A final post, indicating that our Museum staff was so inspired by the artifacts on display that they’d left to pursue their own Great Realizations, served as a perfect transition point to lead us into the new integrated content for the Great Realization campaign we would share next.


With this campaign, our goal was to create a buzz ahead of our soon-to-launch tv campaign and get our millennial audience to take notice and engage with a brand they might normally scroll right on by. We were able to do this in spades.

Our launch post for the campaign went viral, driving more than 30k social engagements – breaking a record for our brand across any social media channel. The campaign as a whole also outperformed ALL our past social benchmarks in terms of Overall Engagement Rate, Story Completion Rate, Cost Efficiency, and Follower Growth, all by hundreds of percentage points.

The industry also took notice, with posts on LinkedIn and writeups on Sprinklr, Digiday, and Brand Innovators helping to contribute millions of additional earned media impressions resulting from the campaign. Members of our team were even invited to share the campaign with the next generation of marketers, presenting “How It Got Made” talks at the University of Washington, Drew University, and for the members of

Through finding a truly relatable consumer insight and then exploring it in a way that shattered the sea of sameness in our industry, we achieved all of our campaign goals and so much more.


Video for The Museum of Recent History

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Northwestern Mutual


Entry Credits