Nikita Mishra
Sep 7, 2022

Behind Manulife's new critical-illness campaign

Head of marketing Kenneth Luk on how this campaign—starring Gordon Lam and Louise Wong—aims to break the sea of sameness in Hong Kong's insurance category.

Behind Manulife's new critical-illness campaign

Critical illness insurance used to be a hard sell. It had a poor reputation in the past: costly covers, steep premiums, disputes over payment and overall skepticism around the need to have one. But insurance firm Manulife finds that the pandemic has flipped that mentality.

Earlier in April, Manulife surveyed Hong Kongers between ages 25 to 54 to find out their top health concerns. Cancer (72%) remains a big worry, followed by heart disease (55%) and stroke (53%). The fear of new, unknown diseases (42%) is rampant as well. The survey also revealed an overarching demand for well-rounded protection against critical illness that offers continuous financial support (46%) to stay protected that comes with flexible payout options.

This insight helped Manulife roll out a large-scale awareness campaign of its latest critical illness insurance covers: ManuPrimo Care and ManuPrimo Care (BestStart). Titled 'Best Chance of Survival', the digital campaign includes a 90-second social video on YouTube, a 30-second video on the ViuTV app to run in conjunction with the commercial, and extensive OOH distribution plans throughout key locations in the city.  

Conceptualised and created by Dentsu, the ad features actors Gordon Lam and Louise Wong who play a couple in this action-packed commercial. Disrupting what’s traditionally been a very staid communication strategy, the ad does not resort to the regular tatctic of evoking fear, sadness, and anxiety in its messaging. Instead, its focus is on building the preference on early preparedness and maintaining financial stability through a critical illness.

In the film, Agent Swift and Agent Flexi—Wong and Lam—who face dangers on the daily discuss the importance of upgrading their critical illness plans over dinner. Designed to engage consumers and help overcome their decision-making barriers when it comes to critical illnesses insurance, the ad takes a light-hearted approach on a serious and heavy topic.

Ahead of its large-scale multi-channel launch, Campaign Asia-Pacific exclusively interviewed Kenneth Luk, head of marketing, Manulife, Hong Kong and Macau, on how this campaign aims to break the clutter in the sea of (insurance) sameness.

Kenneth Luk, head of marketing, Manulife, Hong Kong and Macau

Talk to us about the story behind this campaign.

We signed well-known actors Gordon Lam and Louise Wong as product ambassadors. The idea was to cast them as special agents who face dangers on a regular basis but are also relatable. The two are smart, it’s their day job to protect people, yet there is so much uncertainty and risk involved in the process.

We believe the best way to manage risks is to be fully prepared. With advancements in medical technology, people have a higher chance of surviving a critical illness with timely treatments. So the campaign raises awareness and promotes our two new critical illness plans, ManuPrimo Care and ManuPrimo Care (BestStart), to give people a better chance of survival when it comes to critical illness.

The ad is different from the usual sob story which critical-illness ads tend to evoke. What was the brief given to the creative team for this concept?

For every campaign, Manulife aims to combine creativity and marketing to produce campaigns with great stories which resonate with our target audience. We wanted to take a different approach to what is generally a serious topic. We know some people are reluctant or even scared to mention critical illness, yet we don’t want this to become the norm, which is why we have put a positive, light hearted view on a serious topic to change that viewpoint. 

The idea was to create something which shows that there is support on the road to recovery and medical options are available, so it isn’t all doom and gloom. More than that, it was important for us to highlight that critical illness comes in different forms and stages, and each recovery journey is unique.

During the filming process, we recruited experienced filmmakers to give the commercials a cinematic, entertaining look. 

Production-wise were there any challenges in the making of the commercial?

Behind the scenes from the shoot day

We’ve worked with Dentsu before, so the production was smooth. The commercials took two days to shoot, and we kept a day for the photoshoot. Gordon Lam and Louise Wong are both well-known, acclaimed actors in Hong Kong, but it is the first time they came together on screen. They are such consummate professionals; they went above and beyond our expectations. All in all, it was a memorable experience.

What does the overall marketing strategy for the campaign look like?

Ad on Citybus in Hong Kong

The first leg of the campaign was a product launch event with the brand ambassadors, Lam and Wong.

Now, the plan is to have the display ad prominently featured in prime locations at Hong Kong and Causeway Bay MTR stations and outdoors on the Island Beverly shopping mall. Buses across the city as well as bus shelters will carry the advertisements and we will have an upcoming digital aspect to trigger social conversations and awareness on the topic of how to better prepare for critical illness.

Displayed at the Hong Kong MTR station

In addition to the 90-second social video on YouTube and a 30-second video on the ViuTV app, there will also be a 35-second TV commercial on Viu and OpenTV. Continuing the theme from the commercial, the bite-size videos will star Lam and Wong as special agents promoting the benefits of the Plans. 

The multi-channel campaign also features content partnerships, scheduled and display advertising, and search engine marketing.

Insurance marketing can often be a sea of sameness. How does Manulife strive to stand out from the clutter?

Utilising data, research, and industry insights are key for us to understand the needs of our customers. This campaign, for example, was created after our research revealed the evolving needs of consumers and the demand for customer-centric critical illness solutions with continuous care benefits and greater flexibility and options. We also strive to establish emotional connections with our audience through compelling storytelling.

We’re in the last quarter of 2022, talk about your marketing agenda for the year ahead?

Well, the pandemic has increased people’s desire for insurance. According to recent research by the Insurance Authority, Hong Kong’s insurance density and penetration is already the highest in the world for life insurance.  This appetite for health and protection means Manulife is perfectly positioned to meet the needs of people in Hong Kong.

In addition, as leading digital-led, customer-centric health insurer, we will continue to utilise our digital tools to accelerate the insurance needs of our customers and improve the customer experience.  

A lot has changed post-pandemic. Your own survey highlighted how people are increasingly concerned about critical illnesses now. How has the approach in marketing shifted to reflect the new normal?

Agree, the pandemic has made us increasingly health conscious. People are now spending more time online watching entertainment, which is why we place more emphasis on digital video platforms and create clever, entertaining ads to ensure we stand out from our peers.

For us, it’s important to build emotional connections with the audience while also raise awareness about preventive measures and future planning. Post-pandemic, people are seeking out optimism and entertainment from campaigns, and this is the tone we have adopted in our strategy.

(The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity)

Campaign Asia

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