The animated side of life

By Khushboo Tanna , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 24, 2009
Financial companies, by their very nature, have serious messages to put through to consumers. Lately, while talking money, several have introduced light hearted animation or even mascots to put forth their messages less grimly. afaqs! explores

An animated cat, an animated house and an animated man welcome you to the world of insurance. After ICICI Prudential Life and Bajaj Allianz, the latest financial brand to go the animation way is Bharti AXA. In an ad created by Contract Advertising, the brand employs animation to promote its general insurance and life insurance plans.

So - is animation just an execution differentiator, or is there more to it for a category that is otherwise loaded with the burden of serious messages to be conveyed to its consumers? In this report, afaqs! explores how the financial category is slowly inching towards the use of animation, be it in totality of execution, or by making use of animated mascots.

& #BANNER1 & #The mascots

Bajaj Allianz makes use of an animated mascot called Super Agent: an affable man dressed in a blue and white uniform, always ready to offer help with financial decisions.

Super Agent was conceptualised around three to three and a half years ago and has been used by the company ever since. Akshay Mehrotra, head, marketing, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, explains, "Our business is based on agents and hence we decided to do something that represents the core of our business. This led us to create a character called Super Agent."

Of course, there have been minute changes in the Super Agent over time. For example, he now looks a little younger than he did when he was launched - quite ironically, here's someone who's growing younger.

ICICI Prudential Life, too, created an entity called Chintamani (a hapless middle-aged man, worried about where to invest his monies) a few years ago. Amer Jaleel, executive director, Lowe, reveals that Chintamani was initially created just for a radio spot. Over time, however, Chintamani got famous and then it was used in the entire campaign as well.

Even in the case of ICICI Prudential Life, Chintamani was created as a differentiator: while Bajaj Allianz's Super Agent is a personification of the solution, Chintamani was a personification of the worries/hassles that one undergoes when choosing where to invest.

How does it help?

Is animation really an interesting differentiator, or just a difference for the sake of it?

Raghu Bhat, senior vice-president and executive creative director, Contract Advertising, recalls the time when the agency was pitching for an insurance client (Aegon Religare) and, while doing its homework, went through the mandatory competitive analysis.

"We realised that there are so many brands in the category doing the same thing - if you cover the company logos, it's hard to tell one from the other," he shrugs. In that sense, he deduces that although only a few players have used animation, there is potential of an animated character helping a brand get famous in this category.

Kimsoon Chua, chief operating officer, Bharti AXA General Insurance, says that animation has helped the brand move away from category clichés such as smiling faces, happy families, coming together, safety nets or celebration. "To break the mould, we decided to use a caricature."

Does it matter?

Although the use of animation may grab attention initially, one wonders whether good animation can ever carry an average idea ahead, once the initial excitement is over. Jaleel states the obvious: "The execution does not dictate the strategy, it is the other way around."

But clearly, more needs to be done. Some industry experts even tell afaqs! that the manner in which animation has been employed in the financial category in India is amateurish to begin with.

Further, there is the whole question of whether the use of animation in a serious category such as finance implies a breath of fresh air, or just spells dilution of the message in any way.

Chua of Bharti AXA defends his turf, saying, "A serious category need not have a serious tonality and animation need not always connote frivolous. It is just an alternative and refreshing execution and can connote serious topics with equal élan."

Bhat of Contract echoes the same tune: the category is marred by way too much of realism, he feels, and it is here that animation provides relief. "A recent report I read shows that people have started reading more cartoon strips as compared to news pieces. We're guessing people like to forget reality from time to time," he muses.