afaqs!

Birla Sun Life: The Strength Within

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 04, 2015
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Taproot India's recently released film for Birla Sun Life Insurance essays the relationship between a father and his autistic son. The objective is to encourage consumers to look at insurance as more than just a tax saving opportunity. 'Khud ko kar buland', is the tagline.

Allama Mohammed Iqbal, in his famous poem 'Khudi ko kar buland itna', asked people to be strong, such that the obstacles that face them simply cease to exist. Reiterating a similar thought is life insurance brand Birla Sun Life Insurance, in its new campaign titled 'Khud ko kar buland'.

Released last month, the three and a half minute-long film has fetched over 2.6 million views on YouTube, so far. Says team Birla Sun Life about the film, in a write-up on YouTube: "An Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary Man. There are two kinds of men. The first, who allow destiny to enslave them and dictate the fate of their lives. The second, those who humbly acknowledge the power of destiny, but do not allow it to dictate their lives. These are the men who believe they are authors of their life stories, painters of their life's canvases, masters of their destinies. This is a story of one such man."

Birla Sun Life's new TVC

At the end of the film, the protagonist - a loving, tenacious, single father of an autistic boy - decides to battle the odds and start a business of his own. The voice-over says, "Honi ko aap rokh nahin sakte. Par honi bhi aap ko kahan rokh sakegi" (You can't dodge the inevitable. But fate can't really stop you from moving forward).

Explains Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, financial services, Aditya Birla Group, "Insurance is an old industry with over 20 players, post nationalisation. Despite being such an important category, it has only four per cent penetration. We started out by asking, why is this number so low? What role do we play in the lives of people?"

Ajay Kakar

Agnello Dias

Pallavi Chakravarti

Today, consumers view insurance either as an investment opportunity or as a tax-saving tool. Kakar tells us that typically, the insurance sector earns around 50 per cent of its annual revenue during January and March, which is the last quarter of the financial year. Unfortunately, the real purpose - "to become strong," as he puts it - is often forgotten. Through this film, Birla Sun Life wants to change the way people perceive insurance.

"People buy insurance for all the wrong reasons... we want to tell them about the other things insurance can do. We don't want to sell products or solutions. Even in our earlier campaign, Yuvraj Singh didn't speak about the product; rather, he spoke about his own experiences," says the marketer.

The biggest challenges facing his brand include the restricted market penetration of the category it operates in, and the incorrect insurance covers taken by people. The brand's core TG includes people between 25 and 45 years of age. Kakar says, "The day you start earning is the day you need to start thinking about insurance."

Talking about how the objective of this film was to help the insurance segment and its target audience transit from "desperation to inspiration," Agnello Dias, chairman and co-founder, Taproot India, says, "Normally brands in this category work with the brief 'We are the safety net in case something goes wrong'. But instead of telling people how vulnerable they can be, we wanted to show how them how strong they can be."

The challenge, we learn from Pallavi Chakravarti, senior creative director, Taproot India, was "to show 15 years of someone's life in three minutes," while making sure the film is both accurate (in its portrayal of autism) and sensitive.

"We wanted the film to be about what you are, and not what the brand is," she says, "The decisions you take will chart the course of your life; the brand will only be there as an ally."

The film has been directed by Abhinay Deo of Ramesh Deo Productions, and is visible online, on TV and on cinema screens.

Strong Insight?

Naveen Kukreja

Priti Nair

Naveen Kukreja, group chief marketing officer and director, non-insurance business, PolicyBazaar.com, an online insurance comparison portal, says, "Insurance ads usually harp on how vulnerable we are in the face of destiny, never about how strong the human spirit can be. Emotionally empowering one to stay resilient in the face of whatever is in store ahead, is a bold, powerful stance taken by Birla Sun Life Insurance."

The ad, he however feels, will yield returns over the long term, but "may not be as effective from an immediate ROI perspective."

Why so? "With such films," he answers, "comes with the risk of the brand itself taking a backseat." He is referring to the typical 'high ad recall-poor brand recall' outcome that marketers worry about when they make films in which the story - and the emotions therein - take precedence over the product and its functional benefits. A risk worth taking, he concedes, nevertheless.

According to Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry-Nation, an advertising agency, the film looked a "little laboured." While the acting talent, production value and storytelling did impress her, Nair feels the film fails to explore anything new.

"With so many similar films," she says, referring to the recent plethora of insurance ads that tug at the heartstrings, "one just looks like the other."

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