Apollo Munich: Bitter-sweet advertising

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 19, 2010
A commercial for Apollo Munich Health Insurance revolving around the theme 'Let's Uncomplicate', has the creative team at JWT 'taking the bitter out of medicine' and more

Health insurance statistics aren't too encouraging in India, as awareness levels are low and consumers do not completely understand what their health insurance would cover. For an advertiser, therefore, the task of changing impressions in a perceivably morose category is a different challenge altogether.

For Apollo Munich Health Insurance (previously Apollo DKV Insurance), a joint venture between Apollo Hospitals Group and Munich Health, the brand's communication task is threefold: make a splash about its recent rebranded avatar; raise awareness levels about the need for health insurance; and bring about a 'healthy' dash of pleasantness in its brand imagery, as opposed to the category imagery.

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Its television commercial, created by JWT Delhi, opens on the shot of huge alphabet-shaped balloons soaring up into the sky, forming the word 'FEAR', as awe-struck people look on (VO: 'Let's take the fear out of faces').

The next shot has children happily running around the words, 'Blah blah' constructed on an open field, taking the wool off them in an effort to bring the words down (VO: 'The jargon out of words'). Next, a woman is seen in aesthetic surroundings, where she smiles at medicine bottles hanging 'naturally' from trees (VO: 'The bitter out of medicine').

The concluding shot has a large group of people sitting on an open field in the shape of a medical 'cross', as they simultaneously release red balloons into the air. The VO says, 'And the trouble out of treatment. Let's uncomplicate. Apollo Munich Health Insurance'.

Antony Jacob, chief executive officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance, tells afaqs! that the first task was to portray the marriage of Apollo's parentage and heritage with its partner Munich's global health risk management expertise.

According to market research over the last six months by the company, existing and potential clients of health insurance feel it is too complicated, with many services, lots of features and fine points, and too much paperwork. This leads to confusion in their minds about which scheme is better, or whether to even opt for insurance.

"We saw fear in the faces of potential customers, because of ambiguity, jargon and paperwork," says Jacob. This consumer truth led to the birth of the company's philosophy of taking the bitter out of medicine -- symbolising taking the trouble/hassle out of the treatment procedure and settling of bills -- and current positioning: 'Let's uncomplicate'. The idea is to convey that this is a simple, consumer-friendly company.

Swati Bhattacharya, vice-president and executive creative director, JWT Delhi, remarks, "Here is an insurance product from a company that has a healthcare background. When the lines between healthcare and insurance get diffused, then it becomes easy for consumers, which became our starting point."

The 'jargon' vignette in the ad, in particular, emerged from research findings that showed some people didn't know the basic difference between Mediclaim and health insurance. The words in the commercial emerged from the research, and in a sense, gave a tone to the campaign.

The alphabet-shaped balloon execution, according to the JWT team, is inspired from the illustrative art form created by global artist, Stefan Sagmeister. The commercial has been directed by Shashanka Chaturvedi (aka Bob) of Good Morning Films, who flew in artists and experts for the creation of the balloon effect -- the same people also work for creating such effects for the Commonwealth Games. The balloons were filled with hydrogen, and no computer graphics (CG) were involved in the shoot of this sequence. The film was shot in Goa and Mumbai over a week.

In fact, the 'Red Cross' shot had 800 people releasing 1,600 balloons (two for each person) into the air simultaneously -- a one-take shot.

"We invested in a high-quality film on purpose to give out a message to consumers, that what we do involves class," Jacob says.

This corporate ad will be followed up with individual offerings/features led films, which will also be dubbed in regional languages for higher reach. Two commercials -- one about access to the company's specialists and another on lifetime renewals guaranteed -- will be released over the next two months. In the second half of 2010, two more feature-led commercials will be launched.

While the current 60-second corporate commercial (called 'Anthem') targets all and sundry, the company's core aim is to focus on retail insurance, or reaching out to individuals; and not so much to cater to corporate-led insurance needs.

Apollo Munich has planned an ad spend of Rs 12-15 crore for 2010. The production budget for all five ad films, which will air this year, exceeds Rs 2 crore.

'Feel good' factor?

The commercial evokes mixed reactions on the ad circuit. Some argue that for a health insurance category, the brand's 'feel-good' effort is overdone. Others find the execution too close to a global ad for Absolut Vodka, which, coincidentally, is also called 'Anthem'.

"Execution wise, Apollo Munich, though created well, borrows generously from Absolut's Anthem, but the latter is way better with detailing," shrugs KV Sridhar aka Pops, national creative director, Leo Burnett India.

To Pops, the Apollo Munich commercial is like "one of those Korean ads that occupy 60 seconds, but say nothing new." Furthermore, he feels the commercial leaves a person cold, as it is far-flung from reality. "There is absolutely no understanding of humans and the ad becomes a collection of clichés. 'Let's uncomplicate' sounds like clever words that don't leave you with a lasting impression," he says.

On the finer execution aspects, Sainath Choudhury, ad filmmaker, Corcoise Films, tells afaqs!, "'We've seen some great original work recently from this creative team at JWT; so it's a little surprising to see something so identical in idea and execution to an existing international film like Absolut Anthem."

He does allow that even though the team may have been inspired by artist Stefan Sagmeister's style, it would have been exciting to see the agency add its own interpretation to it, rather than replicate what has already been done. "For me, personally, it's a bit of a lost opportunity to see more great work from this creative and film team partnership," Choudhury signs off.

Bhattacharya of JWT allows that the Absolut film is where the team first saw this kind of execution, but it is the artist's work that truly was an inspiration point. Chirag Bhasin, creative director, JWT Delhi, adds, "Why single out Absolut? Yahoo! and Visa have also used similar executions in some of their films. Our idea is way different and we're making no bones about using this style. After all, it isn't one brand's trademark."