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Issue Date: December 15, 2006, Posted On: 12/14/2006

MetLife’s Bollywood ads grab awards

By G. Venkat Ganeshan

NEW YORK — Ads targeting the South Asian community aren't unheard of. However, what is uncommon about the recent MetLife commercials that target the increasingly affluent South Asian community in the United States is that the ads feature a Bollywood-style, over-the-top grandeur to deliver the message.

Recently, the two MetLife ads with a strong Bollywood flavor bagged the top honors in the Asian category at the annual Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Excellence Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We wanted to target the South Asian population in the United States," said Phil Salis, vice president of individual business marketing. "South Asians present an extremely attractive group as a whole. They are much more affluent than the general market place. We thought they're excellent candidates for our campaign."

The New York-based MetLife Inc. is a provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife reaches more than 70 million customers around the world. The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement and savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.

What is striking about MetLife's Bollywood-style campaign is that the ads don't focus on the doom and gloom of how inevitable insurance is. Instead the ads present refreshing images of how happy families with foresight can cover their insurance needs for the future.

The first ad focuses on how a bridegroom had taken care of insurance coverage for his future family well in advance of his marriage. The ad is shot in a Bollywood-style setting with palatial sets and an array of dancers gyrating to a catchy tune. The second ad features another family that has taken insurance to cover their son's college expenses. The focus of the two ads is that families that take care of insurance well in advance are happy and don't have to worry about huge unforeseen expenses.

Aired in spring of 2006, the ads were directed by IW Group Inc. with renowned film director Prasoon Pandey, lyricist Prasoon Joshi and score composers Ehsaan & Loy.

"We were in India for about four-five weeks to shoot the ad," Hanna Shim of IW Group said.

"We worked with famous director Pandey, Joshi and the ads were shot at Film City in Mumbai. Our crew had a great time in India."

In fact, the ads were so popular MetLife released a "Making of the Ad" DVD and circulated it among the South Asian agents.

"We developed a campaign that was of interest to the South Asian community," Salis said. "The tone of the ads essentially bridged their homeland with their new place of stay.

"We looked at different concepts. But one commonality that threaded the South Asian community here was their love for Bollywood. The IW Group came up on the Bollywood theme," he added.

MetLife got an inkling of what would be an overwhelming customer response when the ads were specially premiered for select agents in New York before they went public.

"We had a Bollywood-style premiere in an Indian restaurant in New York for our South Asian agents," Salis said. "The response was overwhelmingly positive. We also did a number of other things including print ads and postcards that carried the same visuals of the actors that the reps could actually send to prospective customers."

"The campaign turned out to be very successful," he added. "We had several calls from local reps. One such rep from Maryland called and requested a copy of the 'Making of the Ad' DVD since it was so popular among the local community. That was not the first time it has happened."

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