SBI Life: Back with the 'Celebrate life' theme

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 14, 2011
SBI Life is out with a product specific communication for its ULIPs, and yet again, carries forward the torch of 'living life to the fullest' through its creative idea.

About five-and-a-half years ago, SBI Life Insurance stumbled upon a 'gem' of an insight, quite literally, in the 'Diamond' ad featuring an elderly couple - a commercial about celebrating the simple joys of life, without worrying about financial difficulties in one's old age. As Chandramohan Mehra, vice-president, brand and communications, SBI Life, says, "What started off as a one-off idea (created by agency Ogilvy India) spun into a long-term positioning premise for the brand, and the brand has stuck to it ever since."

Keeping in mind its 'Celebrate life' theme, the brand is out with a product specific communication for its 'Smart' and 'Saral' ULIPs, now.

The commercial, created by Ogilvy India, revolves around the story of an old couple on a rundown scooter, taking a ride around the city they live in, when the wife jokingly questions why they chose the scooter over the car for a ride.

Her husband reminds her of their rides on the same scooter in younger days, and then suddenly, applies the brakes. His wife leaps forward in what would look like a quick hug. "Besides, a car doesn't allow for such a moment," quips her romantic husband, and as they laugh together, the voiceover (VO) explains that when one trusts SBI Life's 'Saral' and 'Smart' ULIPs, he will obviously find the time for the small joys of life. The VO signs off with SBI Life's punch line, 'Kyunki zindagi hai jeene ke liye'.

Simple joys

SBI Life isn't much of a high voltage advertiser. Its ads are usually spaced out few and far between, and its last communication was a corporate one in December 2009 (the thematic black-and-white 'Jab hum honge saatth saal ke' car commercial). In fact, the brand never openly says 'Celebrate life'. However, this is brought out by elements such as endearing middle-aged or old couples, an old Hindi film song, or a simple story with a hint of romance - all of which are fast becoming creative fixtures with SBI Life communication.

SBI Life revamped its entire portfolio of products in October 2010, with all products starting with the words 'Saral' or 'Smart', to simplify things for consumers. Now, the brand plans to come up with ads for individual products, starting with ULIPs this year. However, even these product specific ads contain the creative brief of being somewhat 'thematic' in nature, with the halo of SBI Life to be captured in the advertising. Anup Chitnis, executive creative director, Ogilvy India calls it a quasi-brand commercial.

Explains Mehra of SBI Life, "Emotional connect is the way to go, and we don't want to be overtly information-led in our tone." The idea is also to bring out the trust factor associated with SBI, the larger umbrella brand, in a subtle manner.

Hence Ogilvy stumbled upon the idea that when SBI Life is meeting wealth creation needs, one gets all the time in the world to relish the small joys of life.

Over the past few years, several other players, particularly private players in the life insurance space, have also used this insight. Some have even resorted to the creative idea of chemistry and romance in old couples. Does SBI Life feel its turf being threatened?

"Not really. While others tried to pull a SBI Life, they landed up looking like me-toos," shrugs Chitnis. Besides, while some of these brands deviated into humour later , SBI Life has stayed consistent to its tone and positioning of a 'worry-free life'.

Apart from television, the campaign makes use of radio, print, outdoor and digital media - including a Facebook page that has 15,000 fans (what may constitute a rarity for a financial brand) and a Twitter page. Further, as a build-up to February 14 (Valentine's Day), SBI Life has conducted various on-ground activities in malls across cities to get the youth excited about the 'romance meets SBI Life' theme, with contests and quizzes.

For instance, questions such as 'What will be the ideal gift for your Valentine in 2033?' are being asked, with the most interesting answer fetching prizes.

The communication has also been released at a crucial time, with the upcoming financial year-end. The target group for SBI Life remains the same: males, aged 28-46 years, across geographies - in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns in particular.

Fresh enough?

The 'Scooter' attempt from the SBI Life factory generates mixed reactions from the ad fraternity.

Anirban Chaudhuri, senior vice-president, strategic planning, Dentsu Communications, opines, "Well, for a moment I thought it was a sequel to the ongoing Tata Nano advertisements, where the new owners of a Nano are finding it hard to move out of their beloved scooter!" On a more serious note, he feels that 'Celebrate life' is a promising positioning platform for a category such as insurance, which has moved beyond the space of death looming large to positive platforms of living life to the fullest.

However, Chaudhuri is of the view that the execution seems to be off the brief. "The portrayal of the old couple is too clichéd and far away from the aspirational silver fox that current youth dream to drive their life to," he shrugs. "So, it is too retro to bring home the point of insurance in a contemporary context," he says.

Arun Raman, Lowe Worldwide, feels the storyline is 'beautiful' and the ad essays a classic romance, with an endearing anecdote about the scooter thrown in. "But, I don't see the underlying connection of this story with the brand," he says, adding that the previous thematic ad, 'Jab hum honge saatth saal ke', had elements such as a soundtrack that connected well with the brand premise.

Further, if the attempt was to make it a product-led ad rather than a brand one, then "it doesn't come through," feels Raman. "And, while the story is rather endearing, it can be applied to various categories and brands," he observes.

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