Campaign of the Week

28 February 2023

Insurer uses killed-off TV characters to promote life insurance 

New Zealand insurer Life Partners creates a campaign around a TV show with a high body count, boosts leads by 75%

New Zealand insurer Partners Life created a campaign that used killed-off characters from a TV show to convince people to take out life insurance.

The ads from The Last Performance campaign aired at the end of each episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries, before the credits rolled. Each episode of the show usually involves a death, and Partners Life got the actors whose characters died to reprise their role, playing reanimated corpses with strong opinions on life insurance.

For example, at the close of the first episode of the eighth series, a 30-second spot aired before the credits appeared, featuring actor Meryl Main. Main played Janis, the first murder victim of the series. But before the episode ends, Janis’s corpse comes back to life and she looks down the camera lens, saying, ‘Well this is unexpected. What are my boys going to do without their mummy now? Sorry lads, there’s no life insurance policy.’

The ad ends by urging viewers to plan for their future with Partners Life. Throughout the rest of the six-part series, similar bespoke films advertising Partners Life aired at the end of each episode.

Lisa Fedyszyn, executive creative director at Special New Zealand, the agency behind the campaign, said in a statement, ‘Partners Life is always challenging industry norms and taking an innovative approach to everything they do. And their approach to advertising is no different. This is an idea that died and came back to life, about characters who die and come back to life, but it was important to find the right series to partner with.’

The campaign ran over a six-week period from 7 August 2022 to 11 September 2022 and content was kept live across on-demand until the end of the year.

Results / According to the agency, Partners Life’ website saw a 135% increase in traffic over the campaign period and the campaign generated a 75% increase in direct leads to its financial advisors and a 26% increase in brand awareness.

Contagious Insight 

Pitch perfect / The Brokenwood Mysteries is a New Zealand television detective drama and according to the agency, it has an average of 400,000 people tuning in each week (8% of New Zealand’s population). Advertising alongside the show would give brands access to a large audience, but it can be difficult to engage viewers in a tedious topic like life insurance. An IBISWorld report found that there is a falling demand for life insurance in New Zealand, which has caused a decline in the industry. According to the agency, only 29% of New Zealanders are protected with a life insurance policy. With this campaign, Partners Life found a way to market life insurance that walks the line between content and advertising. The agency notes that the tone of the TV series is that of dark humour, and reviews state that the show ‘mixes simple mysteries with casual comedy’. By using the same storyline, actors and tone, the ads complement the show and merge seamlessly into the story. 

Consumer insights / According to the agency, research informed the strategy in three ways. It revealed that with the cost of living at an all-time high, Kiwis are prioritising other financial needs, with 54% of New Zealanders stating that life insurance is too expensive. The research also found that traditional advertising wasn’t motivating people to take out life insurance. Lastly, the agency notes that a hallmark of New Zealand culture is to follow the ‘She’ll be right’ mindset. Even when times get tough, Kiwis tend to remain positive – and by not imagining the worst-case scenario, people don’t see the value in protecting themselves in advance. To overcome these challenges, Partners Life had to get creative with its strategy and steer away from industry norms in a way that would grab people’s attention.

Insert your brand into culture / For our Brand Spotlight on Australian insurer NRMA Insurance, we spoke with its parent company’s director of content and customer engagement, Zara Curtis, who told us: ‘We talk about being part of culture a lot. Being there and part of the fabric is really critical.’ This is mainly because the category’s engagement rates are low; insurance is a ‘grudge purchase’ and policies are often renewed automatically. By inserting the ads into a culturally relevant TV show in New Zealand, Partners Life broke with the conventions of traditional insurance advertising and found a context in which people are already engaged. Incorporating the ads into the storyline at the end of the show while viewers are on the edge of their seats allows Partners Life to strike while the iron is hot, rather than fighting for their attention during an ad break. The ads also put life insurance into context. By playing at the end of a show about death and murder, it’s easier for people to see the importance of investing in life insurance.

This campaign brings to mind The Ministry of Health of Peru’s Donor Drama campaign, which saw the organisation alter the scripts of two of its most popular soap operas to drive organ donation. What’s clever about both campaigns is that they use entertainment and storytelling to tackle difficult-to-digest topics by finding the right moment to hijack viewers’ attention when they are most receptive.

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