Belairdirect moves into Newfoundland with a strong local focus

Who: Belairdirect, with Sid Lee for strategy and creative; PHD for media; Hill+Knowlton Strategies for PR.

What: Two new campaigns, a national effort and a regional effort promoting its recent acquisition of two Newfoundland companies.

When & Where: The campaigns are in market now, running across TV/online video, digital, social, radio, and out-of-home. The Newfoundland-specific ads are running through mid-December, and will be followed by a new wave of ads early next year.

Why: Toronto-based Belair announced plans to fold the regional brands Johnson Insurance and Anthony Insurance into the company earlier this year. Johnson and Anthony Insurance had been operating in the province for 130 and 70 years respectively, and with so much history and heritage at stake, it was important to communicate to Newfoundlanders that Belairdirect retains the same values.

Marie-Pierre Leclerc, Belairdirect’s vice-president, direct distribution marketing and digital strategy, said the specific intention is to retain Johnson and Anthony Insurance’s existing customers, while also growing unaided awareness and driving traffic to its website and call centres.

How (the Newfoundland spot): The 30-second spot promoting the brand’s arrival in Newfoundland and Labrador is notably different from Belairdirect’s usual advertising, which tends to be more playful.

“It is very different from the tone and manner we have in our national campaigns, but we felt that introducing a new brand in a market that is different from the rest of Canada, we needed to have the right approach,” said Leclerc. The spot does retain some distinctive Belairdirect brand assets, including the Little Knight character.

Helping others is a core trait of Newfoundlanders, and the brand wanted to convey that it shares that sentiment, said Leclerc. “[T]hat’s why we wanted to really focus on the notion of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians helping each other, but also us as a brand helping our customers as they go through difficult times,” she said.

The spot was created using more than 50 locals, including several longtime Anthony and Johnson Insurance employees, as well as a family and their dog (a Newfoundland breed, natch). Soundtracked by the indie folk duo Fortunate Ones, who created a song specifically for Belairdirect, the spot opens on a group of people working together to pull a boat out of the sea, before transitioning to historical black-and-white footage of people doing the same thing. It then shows vignettes of Newfoundlanders cheerily helping others.

Will this region-specific approach continue? The approach to marketing in Newfoundland and Labrador will ultimately resemble that in other regions, with national advertising supported by region-specific marketing using localized media like out-of-home and radio, said Leclerc. “[B]ut because we want to be relevant to who we speak to, we want to have a more personalized layer,” said Leclerc.

How (the national brand work): The new work is showing how choosing insurance with Belairdirect can actually be the simplest part of life.

Belairdirect had been taking a quirky approach to its communications, such as ads showing a singing home and a singing car, but moved towards a more literal representation of its strategic focus on simplicity. “This year we’re focusing on how we can make [customers’] life simpler by showing how some things that should be simple, like saying goodbye at a party, are actually not that simple,” said Leclerc.

The campaign’s 30-second lead spot, “Simpler than storing a canoe,” shows a young woman attempting to leave a family gathering, only to be roped into saying goodbyes to multiple relatives. Desperate to escape, she attempts to exit through the garage, only to encounter another relative who’s surprised she’s not staying for cake.

The relative’s sudden appearance causes her to stumble into a shelf and send a canoe tumbling onto her car. A voiceover informs viewers that unlike trying to make an easy getaway, quickly submitting and tracking a claim on the Belairdirect app “actually is simple.” A 15-second version shows the woman submitting the curious claim via the app, only to be immediately informed that the company is working it.

Chris Powell