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How we made: Singapore Life’s ‘Birth’ campaign

As part of a series looking at some of the region's most groundbreaking work, Singapore Life’s CEO Walter de Oude and Dentsu Singapore’s ECD Andy Greenaway look back at how the new insurer made the bold step towards using a live birth in last year's brand campaign

Selling a product as dry as insurance is by no means an easy task for marketers, but it has led to a number of highly-emotional ads over recent years.

Although Thai ads have largely led the way in the tear-jerking stakes, recent efforts by Singaporean insurers indicate that making audiences throats tighten is truly the way to go. Last year’s NTUC Income’s ‘Times have changed’ was one example of this. Another was ‘Birth’ by a relatively new player, Singapore Life – the first ad by a Singaporean insurer to feature a live birth on camera.

And according to the company’s chief executive officer Walter de Oude, as Singapore Life remains a relatively new brand in a crowded market, making a splash was everything.

“Our goal was to position Singapore Life as the newest life insurance brand in the market,” he says. “We wanted to create awareness of our brand. That foundation was a high consideration.”

In addition to standing out from established competitors, de Oude also faced the dilemma of connecting to people over the subject of life insurance – nominally the last thing on anyone’s mind amid the hecticness of day-to-day life. However, for de Oude, life insurance is “an emotional” subject, hence the brand’s decision to channel this into its campaign.

“When you have kids, you see the value of life,” he explains. “You’re buying a future for your children and your family. If I go, I need to make sure my family has everything they need. There’s a massive emotional rationale in the purchase.”

To connect this sentiment, de Oude enlisted longtime agency collaborator Dentsu Singapore to create a 2.46 minute film and distribute it across the media.

Leading the creative process was Dentsu Singapore’s executive creative director Andy Greenaway, who spearheaded the concept of a child’s birth.

“Loved ones that would struggle if the main breadwinner was no longer around,” he says. “And the moment when this realisation is most poignant is when you have a baby. That moment when you’re holding the miracle of a new life in your hands.”

However, rather than just simply hire actors to simulate the birth scene, both Singapore Life and Dentsu decided to take the idea one step further – and film real life mothers during their labour and the birth itself.

“We liked the idea because in a category which is known for its staged scenarios, this spot would be real,” adds Greenaway. “Raw. Visceral”.

Although finding willing participants appeared like a daunting task, the process turned out to be easier than de Oude expected. After a poster was displayed at Raffles Hospital – which gave the insurer permission to film the births there– six couples came forward, who all went on to appear in the ad.

So how did de Oude convince them? “We covered their medical expenses,” he quipped. “But we also had to make it worthwhile for the parents. We gave them a personal reminder of their own children’s birth.”

To cover up any potential goriness of the scene, the ad was shot in monochrome, while a recomposed version of the song ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, sung by the Singaporean singer Weish, played over the mothers’ cries.

‘We paid their medical bills’ – how Singapore Life convinced mothers to film their labours

Following its completion, the campaign was officially released in October, both as an online and social media campaign, plus with a number of out-of-home spots in Singapore’s taxis. On YouTube, the ad has so far received 173,000 views. But following the brand’s efforts, did the campaign have any tangible impact on its key objectives?

“From the brand data analytics and tracking we’ve seen, the campaign has had a huge impact on site numbers and acquisition volume,” says Greenaway. “On certain platforms, the engagement rates have beaten previous records and the unique site visitor traffic to the Singapore Life website has seen a spike of more than 15 times since the brand launched.”

De Oude adds: “Our target is to gain five per cent of the market share in Singapore over three years. On the back of the campaign, the brand has been very positively received. It defied our expectations and a lot of new business came through our channels.”

Looking ahead, there are plans to follow up with the families from the campaign once their children are older, although de Oude was unable to specify when new material would emerge. 

“We are a long-term company,” he says. “It’s not just about using a campaign to sell products, but about giving a solution around the message of life. Our ad showed that celebration of life that we as a company are trying to champion. Life is something wonderful: what better way to talk about the meaning?”

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