AIA CMO on why branding campaigns matter

A practical branding campaign is sort of an oxymoron in the advertising industry.

Yet, it's precisely what AIA CMO Paul Groves's Real Life Never Stops campaign tries to be.

"The problem with advertising in the insurance sector is that it doesn't really get to its range of offers. The images we often see are people in the hospital or walking into a sunset on a beach: but life is not like that."

"Life changes every day and our new campaign recognises that," he said, adding that practicality is the biggest demand from insurance buyers.

"We want to be seen as the company who protects people, who helps them plan, prepare and save."

So unlike its competitors (AXA, for example, just launched a commercial in June for a cancer-related insurance product), Groves said AIA's version of practicality is conveyed on a sentimental branding level.

"Ultimately, yes, we want to let people know about our products too, but that goes underneath this campaign. Right now, we need people to know we reflect real life, that our products can embrace the tapestry of events life can hand you," he said and likened his advertising strategy to aviation.

Hovering at the highest altitude - he explained - is branding, where the company shares its promises and expectations; next is category, which is a place for educating the idea of protection; and third is the product level, exemplified by local pushes such as the cougar TVC.

"If you just have product campaigns without telling people why they need it, they're missing the issue; vice versa, if you just have branding campaigns without a catalogue of products, then consumers don't know what to do with you," he said. "These three tunes have to be played simultaneously.

Being AIA's first branding push since it broke off from AIG in 2010, it's also the first campaign to have such a heavy investment in social media: aside from debuting on YouTube, Facebook and regular traditional channels, Real Live Never Stops is also a photo challenge on Instagram for weekly prizes.

"Insurance is quite a dry subject, but through these different channels, we're telling people it doesn't have to be dry," Groves said and added that the new platform is to capture the attention of a younger audience and to appeal to a broader spectrum.