Innovating travel insurance marketing: how NTUC Income used 8-bit to create six second ads

With the majority of insurers in Asia Pacific offering 60% coverage of their travel insurance in their online ads, NTUC Income explains why it decided to take a different approach with its latest creative 'Play It Safe'.

Enlisting the help of its creative agency BBH and Google, the Singapore-based insurer used YouTube's Director Mix to create 500 different variations of six-second bumper ads with different 8-bit characters suffering accidents in various locations.

Explaining why the brand took the unique approach, Marcus Chew, Income's chief marketing officer, tells The Drum it has become a situation where every brand is going tactical when marketing their travel insurance products. And even though it is the right approach because of the ease of acquiring customers with discounts, there is very little storytelling.

That did not sit well with Income, Chew says, because as a brand, storytelling is at the heart of how it tries to educate its customers.

“We wanted to break away from the whole commodity kind of advertising, which we need to do, like buying search and acquiring customers to meet sales targets, but doing it through another avenue where we can get better at advertising our products because we do a lot of digital marketing like targeting, contextual ads, search,” he explains.

Working alongside Google to use its latest tool, the YouTube Director Mix, the brand realised it could make something cool while also creating a storyline, and most importantly, continuing to serve the discounts.

In addition, Chew says Income noted that the number of people buying travel insurance has increased because of ‘recent events’. As they used to buy it at the very last minute in the past, usually three days before, customers now buy it up to eight days before a trip.

“In six seconds, we need tell them one or many parts of the story and with Director Mix, we can use the search results to create almost over 500 permutations of the ad. For example, if you search beach holidays and Boracay, at the back you will see the Boracay visual example and show things like food poisoning,” he explains.

The creative process

With the brief of getting people to think about Income and travel insurance before a competitor get the custom, the agency came up with an idea about how travelling without insurance is like a game of chances but with Income a consumer is well covered with insurance.

Thomas Wagner, planning director at BBH Asia Pacific explains that while they were still in discussion with Income, Google showed them the possibilities of using the Director Mix. With the software, the agency was able to create numerous ads rather than jus 60-second ad that showed everything Income provides, which people would have skipped.

“The other thing Director Mix does, is inform the creatives about the data when they are writing the stories. For example, Income will know what is the most typical claims, whether its food poisoning, doctor visits or people breaking their legs.”

As one of the first ads in APAC to have used YouTube's Director Mix on this scale, it was no surprise that both BBH and Income had numerous challenges to overcome.

One of the challenges was how to show the 8-bit character suffering with asthma and making an inhaler larger than life with only six seconds.

Another was on the Google front as not enough data for certain categories would show up, so the insurer had to keep selecting by going for the bigger categories.

“We had to look at the permutations on the Excel sheet and there were so many. With 500 permutations, along the way, we had to be less greedy and adjust the plan. It was not a smooth journey where we put it up,” says Chew.

Wagner adds: “We were getting carried away creatively and we were producing multiple combinations, that we realised that we had over a thousand combinations. That is not manageable because we had to tell a very sharp story in five minutes.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie Davis, country director of Singapore at Google notes: “Mobile has raised consumers’ expectations and has also made reaching them in a way that resonates more complex.

"The good news is that state-of-the-art technologies, like YouTube Director Mix, allow advertisers to effortlessly customize videos and reach the right audiences at scale."

The results

According to Chew the campaign, which ran between December 11, 2017 to 20 January 2018, achieved a brand recall of an increase of 5.8 points, beating industry benchmarks by 50%, while branded search increased by 55%.

“The numbers are showing that we are 50% above the brand recall benchmark, which is very strong, our sales are increasing and we are getting more acquisition. It is very difficult in the industry to achieve this,” he explains.

Learning lessons

According to those involved, all parties have gleaned a lot of learnings from this campaign. Chew explains that Income is already planning for part two for this in a different space, adding that Income will do more campaigns like this, as surprise is a big element of the brand.

“When we look at retirement, it is long-haul and that is something 'very far away'. For example, things like travel and motor insurance, those are very intuitive," he notes.

"It is very hard for people to imagine when you talk to them about retirement because it can be 30-40 years away."

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