Neha Kalra

HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities

The ad for HDFC's life insurance product seeks to get people to invest in life insurance for security, rather than treat it as yet another investment option

It's human nature to fear the loss of our loved ones, but none of us want to be confronted with this reality. In its new TV commercial, HDFC Standard Life plays on this fear.

Carrying forward its brand philosophy of 'Sar Utha Ke Jiyo', HDFC Standard Life's TVC aims to promote security as the reason for buying insurance, rather than it being just another investment option.

Sanjay Tripathy, executive vice-president and head, marketing, HDFC Standard Life, says, “We wanted people to buy life insurance for the right reasons and not only for the purpose of saving tax.”

The brand promise of HDFC Standard Life is: “I do not need anybody to take care of my responsibilities.” The latest TVC goes a step further and says, “I'll take care of my responsibilities, even if I'm not around.” It is based on the insight that a man takes pride in ensuring that his family will never depend on anyone else for their financial needs.

HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
The film opens on a shot of a small boy telling his mother that he has lost his toy car. His mother asks him to look again, but the boy says he has looked everywhere. In the meantime, the boy's uncle volunteers to buy him a new one. The boy, with much self-respect, says that he has his father to buy him one.

The uncle asks the child what he would do if his dad went missing. The boy is dumbfounded and his mother assures him that his dad will never go missing. Just then, the boy's father enters the room and reassures him that even if he "goes away somewhere", he will be the one who gets the boy a new car. The child looks visibly relieved as the HDFC Standard Life message is played.

The commercial was shot by Shoojit Sircar of Rising Sun Films.

HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
Nitesh Tiwari, executive creative director, Leo Burnett Mumbai, the agency which handles the brand’s creative duties, says, "Normally, people do not like to face the harsh truths of life. So, the objective was to make them face reality, even it was of the bitter kind."

"In the TVC, we planted the thought in the child's mind, which was followed by an assurance from the father – a positive and optimistic route for the brand," he explains.

afaqs! spoke to some ad professionals on what they thought of the ad. Several raised their eyebrows at the creative route of a child being brought face to face with such negativity.

As Deepesh Jha, creative head, Airtel, Rediffusion Y&R Delhi, analyses, "Essentially, the commercial is about a man accidentally making a kid realise that his father can really go away forever (death implied). As adults and parents we try and preserve the innocence of our children. Then how do we forget it in our advertising. One has to question whether this is in good taste."

Ullas Chopra, executive creative director, Capital Advertising, also finds the plot insensitive. "It seems like the writer had to somehow make the plot happen. But on the flip side, in real life, we all have bumped into such insensitive characters as shown in the ad."

Chopra adds that if a kid is smart enough to figure out what the “Papa kho gaye” dialogue is a euphemism for, he is smart enough to figure out the positive ending, too.

Tiwari of Leo Burnett clarifies HDFC’s stand on this: “The whole ad is part of a continuous conversation. The older man's comments are simply a very spontaneous reaction. Moreover, he feels bad after saying it. It was unintentional and he regrets saying it.”

Rajeev Sharma, national brand planning director, Leo Burnett, supports Tiwari’s view. “It is very natural to switch off when talking about death. Using the 'Agar Papa gum ho gaye' technique in the ad is only to get people to pause momentarily.”

Max New York Life recently tried something similar with its Sanju advert, except that the situation was in an adult setting.

In the past, insurance companies have used various symbols associated with death to instil fear in consumers’ minds, such as showing widows or framed photos of the deceased. With this commercial, is the category headed back towards fear as an emotion to be exploited? "For us, the challenge was to address the problem without actually showing it," Sharma explains, adding that the fear element has been underlined subtly in this ad.

HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
HDFC Standard Life: Time to face up to unpleasant realities
Issues of insensitivity aside, Chopra of Capital is quite impressed with the ad. “HDFC has a fairly challenging task of keeping its 'Sar Utha Ke Jiyo' proposition fresh and surprising each time, and for that, I give them credit,” he says. While he admits that using children to tug on the emotions is an oft-used route, he adds, "Children are, after all, a part of our reality."

"I think this effort does it better than the earlier one of ‘Mere Paas Ek Plan Hai’. There, the kid seemed too precocious to be real," Chopra observes.

Titus Upputuru, senior creative director, O&M Delhi, says that the film has a very simple and beautiful question, "What if Dad gets lost?" However, he feels that the creative idea got lost somewhere in the execution.

He compares this ad to another insurance ad, which he saw at Cannes. It showed a little boy trying to save a buck-toothed girl from the bullies in school. Considering that the girl is quite goofy and unattractive, viewers wonder why the boy is taking so much trouble. In the end, the boy drops the little girl home and we see why he was saving the girl – her mother is gorgeous. The boy's voiceover says, “My dad always taught me to see potential. And then invest.”

“That's beautiful, isn't it?” asks Upputuru.

The campaign is targeted at working males in the age bracket of 30-45 years, with a dependent family, from SEC A and B. Apart from television, the campaign will also utilise out-of-home, magazines, Internet, mobile and on-ground activation programmes.

HDFC Standard Life has a range of products, including pension plans, child plans, youth plans, life insurance and home loans. The current TVC is for Life insurance, which was launched under the banner of HDFC Standard Life four years ago.

Apart from this commercial, HDFC has released three more TVCs in the current fiscal – one each for its pension plan, youth plan and child plan.

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