financial advertising in india

Insurance ads in india have come a long way in the last three decades. Be it television commercials, print ads, or bill boards. The change is remarkably noticeable. Earlier most of the advertising in this sector tended to play crudely on our consistent fear of the future and the unknown. A case in point being the television advertisement of firms like United India Assurance, National Insurance and Oriental Insurance. All the aforementioned companies provided insurance policies for contingencies like fire, robbery and natural disasters.

Television commercials of that time tended to be rawly cooked scripts put together in the doors of hard sell copy. All of them invariably, toyed with our fear factor. In the new millennium ads in this sector have undergone an image makeover. Gone are elements like exaggerated visuals, theatrical voiceovers and melodramatic music. With the advent of foreign insurance companies like Bharti AXA, ICICI Prudential, Max NewYork, Iffco Tokyo, Aviva etc, ads have acquired a refined feel about them. Even if you look at Oriental life insurance’s more recent television commercials, the change in outlook is overtly clear.

With a tagline like Prithvi, Agni, Jal, Aakash. Sabki suraksha hamare paas, they chose to concentrate on earthy and radiant visuals instead of opting for the time tested route of harbouring into your worst fears. Most ads of these firms have a subtle undertone to them. Old age once looked upon as a burden is now viewed as the harbinger of a second life where you are finally relieved of your filial responsibilities and can explore the world around without a care to the winds. HDFC Life Insurance’s tag line (Hamesha Aapke Saath) and SBI Life Insurance’s (With Us You are Safe) are prominent examples.

Most of the insurance ads now focus on the relationship of the customer to his/her kith and kin and how much relationships ought to be valued and taken care of. A recent ICICI television commercial where an urban couple lovingly negotiate the responsibility of getting the future of your close ones assured illustrates this point. HDFC Life Insurance’s ad campaign stresses on the importance of rising on your own feet and not having to be a liability on anyone else irrespective of your age, gender and income.

One of the television commercials shows a father trying to make his kid sturdy and self sufficient, in spite of the age old notion of pampering kids with affection and care, raises a pertinent point. Another television romanticises old age as a new phase of adulthood by showing a 60 year- odd couple celebrating their togetherness. Evidently insurance ads have come a long way from those days where all visuals needed to be potential catastrophes and the fear factor needed to be overtly stated. LIC

True to its name, The Life Insurance Corporation of India was the first to introduce the concept of life insurance policies in the country’s insurance sector. In pre liberalisation India, LIC was looked upon as a life jacket at a time when the economic stability was more of a desired trait than reality. A lot of the ads during that time exploited the general sentiment of scepticism about the future to the utmost hilt. Simplistic images stressing on security of your near and dear ones and possessions manage to strike a chord most of the time.

Many of the images were often utopian, with smiling and stress free faces of people in the ad sticking out prominently. The brand positioning around that time revolved around the fact that LIC as a firm understood Indian concerns, needs and fears better than its contemporaries (Hum Jaane Bharat Ko Behtar). The creative’s around that time, more often than not, tended to be shoddy images with the least amount of concern for the visual aesthetics. Most of LIC’s current ads are a lot more colour coordinated and visually appealing as compared to its preceding ones.

Now the thrust is to state the salient features of the policy, instead of playing around with vague abstractions like fear, relationship and security. They are a lot more cleaner in terms of their approach and visual dynamics. Now an established brand presence, LIC prefers to let its ads talk about its policies more than the traits of its associated brand personality. Also ochre yellow, the universal colour of prosperity and stability, has been a steadfast presence in all LIC ads in recent times.

Apart from the thrust in policy features when it comes to copy the images used this time around is also different because they somehow appear more livid and grounded as compared to its preceding ads. It is probably unfair to compare LIC’s past and present ads because the former was at a time when LIC was the only major player in its category. In fact at that time the whole insurance sector was synonymous with LIC’s firm name. Hence, its ads could get away with being over the top in terms of visuals and grandiose in terms of language.

However now LIC finds itself competing with umpteen number of other insurance companies all of which have a unique brand positioning crafted to occupy different spectrums in the market. Consequently the ads of LIC now have a focused and concentric demeanour about it. They probably figured out keeping its copy limited to its policy features and terms and conditions is probably the best position. Given the mitigating brand equity Life Insurance Corporation of India enjoys in the insurance sector at this point of time, their current approach is probably the most sensible one out.

BANKING SECTOR ADVERTISING There was a time when the banks used to compete with each other in terms of fixed deposit interest rates and savings rates. There was a distant difference in these two parameters from bank to bank. Hence, the USP of a banks ads would often be its high FD interest rates or lucrative savings account scheme. However, with liberalisation and regulation ensuring cut throat competition in this sector there has been a paradigm shift in terms of the approach and positioning axis of banks in India.

Offering of tangible benefits has given way to the emotional juggling of intangible nitty-gritties like trust, pride and care. Banks now like to tout their all round customer services rather than concentrate on a particular service or offering. This is giving rise to a trend of institutional ads. But banks end up talking about their organisation more than its specialised services. For instance Kotak Mahindra Bank’s recent slew of 25 television commercials each of 10 seconds talked about turning 25 as a liberating and a memorable experience.

Such an approach was unthinkable in the pre liberalisation days. Another example is Standard Chartered which annually funds the Mumbai Marathon, south Asia’s biggest long distance run in terms of no of participants. Over the years the brand equity of the brand has had a symbiotic relationship with the event. As the events stature has grown, so has the banks magnanimous reach. Standard Chartered today is seen as a philanthropic financial institution and a lot of the credit goes to the Mumbai Marathon.

With the introduction of brand new services like ATM’s educational loans, credit cards etc, their influence on bank ads have been unmistakeably evident. SBI State Bank of India always had a subdued presence in terms of the ads it released since time immemorial. One aspect that remained constant throughout were the seasonal ads spread across all major Indian festivals. The overall image that SBI has managed to retain is that of a surly wisecrack devoid of a human face. Specific regions meant ads in the local language or dialect even though the sensibilities of the visual would be more or less pan-Indian.

Accordingly the advertising was pretty much stagnant upto the mid 90’s when banks all over the world suddenly started touting their wider array of services. The creatives were often compromised in order to make for a greater resonance with the local sensibilities involved. Regionally affiliated branches of the bank like State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Maharashtra, State Bank of Indore etc sparsely took out any ads of their own and even the ones released were very diminutive. The upheaval started around the mid 90’s when State Bank of India started come out with a spate of well thought and visually compact ads.

One of them, for instance had a picture of a stick shielding a golden egg from being crushed by a brick with the tagline Before You attached to it. The message was stark and well crafted. This was followed by a phase where State Bank of India started to advertise its wide range of services across the country. The positional leverage of the Surprisingly SBI campaign was the fact that the bank had singularly the most number of branches in the country. Hence, copies like Our 8,999 Branches Made no Sense to a Cold, Tired Soldier in Ladakh. So we Opened One There were the norm of the day.

The bank also had a wide number of automated teller machine (ATM) in the country, numbering around 3500; a fact that was used extensively in the same campaign. Surprisingly SBI also featured a slew of ads which talked about the conveniences of borrowing educational loans from the bank. State Bank of India was one of the foremost banks to advertise its debit cards with its Welcome to a Cashless World campaign. A group of wily ads invoked the wonders of using debit card by depicting an ex pick pocket as having reformed his ways to become a cobbler or a washerman.

State Bank of India successfully conveyed the benefits of debit cards with this campaign. In fact, its debit cards saw a remarkable increase in usage and sales after this campaign. State Bank of India’s incumbent campaign is a promulgated celebration of its enhanced heritage. The Banker to Every Indian is a celebration of all things Indian. Their ads feature a jamboree of every aspect associated with the country – from portraits of respected leaders and visionaries like Rabindranath Tagore.

Rajendra Prasad, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to stills of scenes distinctly endemic to our nation (the local kirana store, the bullock cart-wielding farmer, the uptown urban worker bargaining with a vegetable hawker, the saree-wielding housewife juggling children, groceries and the rigours of the kitchen, etc). The whole campaign seems to be a knee-jerk response to the onslaught of neck-to-neck competition in the banking sector by associating itself with nationalistic fervour.

To its credit though, the campaign seems to have been quite successful in appealing to our innate ethnocentric sensibilities. What has also worked in its favour is an ingenious media plan for the campaign. For instance, the bank chooses to take out its educational loan inserts close the admission season in universities abroad. On the eve of national holidays or birthdays of legendary national personalities, the brand strives to associate itself with the current subject at hand.

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