Horror films and 00s music videos: how this insurance brand is pushing creative boundaries
Income Insurance hit headlines for its whacky approach to creativity that stands out in a sector that tends to offer little originality. The brand and its agency BBH Singapore explain more.
Income Insurance ad
You might not associate an almost 18-minute horror film, a noughties-inspired music video with The Calling or a gigantic human stress ball with an insurance company, but that has not stopped Singapore-based provider Income. In fact, the team there is intent on pushing the creative boundaries with advertising – and throwing the entire marketing budget at it.
Alongside its agency BBH Singapore, the past year has seen the organization test the waters of different genres. For the creative team, everything comes down to storytelling, but it’s not been given the grace of merely shifting the dial on “soft” metrics. The work can be as out there as the agency can make it, but it must meet customer acquisition and ambitious revenue targets for the brand.
“We’re in the business of growing our business,” says Income’s chief customer officer Dhiren Amin. “We have a stated ambition to serve one in two Singaporeans, which we’re actually well on track of reaching two years ahead of schedule.”
He describes the work as “edgy,” and a tactic that enables the company to stand above competitors in the sector. “Standing out in this market is obviously tough,” he continues. “But it’s not like the challenge is unique to us.”
Income’s core audience tends to lie between the ages of 30 and 49, but it's explicitly going after people with a ‘protection gap’ within their lives. The brand has found that up to 70% of Singaporeans aren’t adequately insured.
But while the unique creative approach could arguably seen as a brand-building exercise, the opposite is true. Every penny of the marketing budget goes into promoting products. “We don’t tend to look at anything as pure brand campaigns; we look at our product campaigns building brands,” he adds. “Literally 100% of our budget is product marketing based.”
This mentality is how the company tasks BBH. All the briefs are built around those products. “We get a really clear point of view about exactly what the product is and who the target audience is,” notes Chris Chalk, chief strategy officer at BBH. “It’s great as an agency to have a clear product brief like that because, quite often you don’t get that level of clarity. That helps to lead to more interesting creative solutions.”
And rather than being restrictive, the strict guidelines mean the agency can be more ambitious in the creative executions. This summer, a spot that adopted the style of a music video communicated health insurance in a dramatic way. It could have easily become extremely dull, but the team thought outside the box and enlisted noughties rockers The Calling to pen an original track that would resonate with different groups. On the move, Amin says that the message behind the ad was stark: life can fall apart if you’re under-protected. But it was very dry, and that’s why they needed the song.
“We needed to find the right artist to do this. One with gravitas,” explains executive creative director Kaairul Mondzi. “And one that fits within a reasonable budget.” There was a shortlist, one that even featured names like Scottish crooner Lewis Capaldi, but The Calling responded, and it was a resounding yes from the band.
One of the lead creatives on the project, Janson Choo, jokes that the writing process was quick and hints some songs left over from a previous album may have helped them on their way. Quips aside, Choo says that lead singer Alex Band seemed to resonate with the concept, and the process was natural for him. From demo to completion, everything was delivered, recorded and approved within a month.
Filming took place on a day shoot. Choo remembers asking why the protagonist looked like he had been crying the entire time. Turns out, the constant wind machine and debris flying everywhere had severely irritated his eyes. Talk about method acting.
In the month since its release, the video has racked up 1.2m views on YouTube alone. Dabbling in different genres gives the creatives a bigger canvas to work on. It’s a way to make Income stand out from the crowd and so far, the social media numbers look positive.
On its long-form, horror-inspired ad, the views are a little lower at 12k. The team didn't approach it like an ad and worked alongside film director Kelvin Tong, known for movies such as Eating Air and The Maid.
“The team has been very open to hearing our ideas. We were surprised about which ideas were picked,” Mondzi confesses. “It snowballed from there. One project after another, what’s the next interesting thing that we can do? We’ve got this momentum and we hope we can carry on.”
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Although the team is dipping in and out of different styles, there’s an underlying brand signature that runs through everything but it’s about utilizing it in the most fun way. Amin adds: “Most people will not recognize it, but the music for the horror film is entirely our brand music. It’s to their [BBH] credit that they have been able to modify it.”
Creative duo Choo and Mondzi appear to apply a great sense of fun to this work. Future projects for Income will most likely be just as unexpected. “We did a stress ball to begin the year, a horror film in the middle and a music video now,” concludes Amin. “I don’t think anybody started by thinking any of these three things were going to happen.”