Bye-bye Benji? Nib swaps celebrity endorsement for crowd-sourced clips

After taking over Tower Medical Insurance in late 2012, Nib launched into the New Zealand market in October last year with short-lived rugby convert Benji Marshall fronting the campaign. But now, just like the Blues, it has put him on the bench and released a new brand campaign that celebrates the joy of being human—and shows the need for adequate protection. 

According to a release, Nib’s new campaign “celebrates humanity and all its eccentricities”, which is “demonstrated by the use of real footage of real people”. This involved hundreds of hours of searching YouTube for appropriate clips, tracking down the individuals involved to get their permission to use the footage and paying them for use of the content.

“With this campaign, we set ourselves an ambitious and fun challenge and when you see the result it was worth the effort, because it truly reflects what real people engage in as they seek to live their lives to the fullest,” says chief executive Rob Hennin.

Nib has a long history of using brand ambassadors in its advertising, and league hard man Paul Harrogan acted as the face of the brand in Australia. So ​does this campaign show it’s moving away from that strategy? And is it the end of Marshall as a mascot?

“Not at all,” says Hennin. “Benji is an integral part of our growth strategy for the New Zealand market. As a brand ambassador, Benji has performed above our expectations and will feature in our new TV ads and other above the line material.” 

Nib worked with JWT for its launch campaign, but the agency is now working with Sovereign. And the ‘it’s good to be human’ campaign was first launched in Australia early this year and came out of the Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney office. Hennin says the campaign has been modified for this market and it was managed by its marketing team in Auckland, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and Ikon. It will run across TV, online video, social media and print. 

The New Zealand and Australian health insurance markets are quite different, however, with ACC a powerful force here and penalties in Australia for those who don’t have cover making it nigh-on mandatory. And, unlike New Zealand, Nib is also very well-established across the ditch. So will this campaign work here? 

“While there are some differences when it comes to the two markets, our consumer research has shown New Zealanders want private health and medical cover that provides value and choice, so ‘it’s good to be human’ is very relevant to New Zealanders and we expect it to do well,” says Hennin. 

When asked how successful the launch of Nib has been in this market, Hennin said the significant investment in marketing and brand, which included a number of high-profile sponsorships like the Black Caps and The Blues, has led to 40 percent prompted brand awareness in its target under 40 age group. 

“We have also generated more than 10,500 policyholder sales for FY14, of which 40 percent have been direct to consumer. Pleasingly, almost 60 percent of all our sales were to customers under 40 years of age and more than 50 percent joined online. So it’s been a very successful period for us.” 

Hennin didn’t respond to a question about how its competitors reacted to its arrival, but Southern Cross, which is thought to have about 70 percent of the health insurance market, certainly seems to have pumped a bit more money into promoting its various health insurance products since then with a series of ads via Barnes, Catmur & Friends featuring Lisa Carrington (while AMI isn’t a direct competitor, it launched a campaign via Colenso BBDO with a similarly human-focused theme in the middle of last year). 

Another overseas insurance player, Youi, also launched into the New Zealand market recently and the South African company has followed a similar strategy to Nib, giving its commercials plenty of airtime and sponsoring 3 News. 

Its ads, which were made in-house, use some fairly blunt stereotypes about duplicitous insurance folk and focus on the fact that it doesn’t make assumptions about what its clients need. And, at a time when insurance companies are struggling with perception issues due to the ongoing issues in Christchurch, it’s hoping the transparent approach of the Youi Wall will appeal to Kiwis. 

“New Zealanders have a high degree of insurance consumption because they are well informed; as such they appreciate the value and peace of mind that insurance can provide them,” said chief executive Danie Matthee at the time of the launch. “However, paying too much, one-size-fits-all pricing, poor service and fine print in policies, are frustrations.” 

Youi has invested close to $60 million in capital to launch in this market. The local team is made up of more than 280 employees and that is set to rise to more than 420 by April 2015. 

Matthee said having call centres in three countries assisted the company with strong growth in the Australian market due to extended operating hours and increased customer satisfaction.

“This has provided us with a lot of confidence that we can offer New Zealanders the same service offering.”

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