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Social Media Success: South African Insurer Santam's Viral "Touché" Advertisement

Fast food restaurant Nandos, known for its cheeky advertisement parodies, punked Santam's original ad, only to be pwned in a sequel.

Insurance advertisements naturally gravitate to the exploitation of audience fear, but a quick exchange of dueling ads in South Africa shows that insurers can be funny too -- and they can enjoy social media success in the process. Catherine Stagg-Macey, the London-based senior VP for Celent's European insurance practice -- and a native South African -- reports on the exchange between South Africa's largest general insurer Santam and fast food restaurant Nando's.

Santam put out a rather plain ad about insurance. Nando's, a South African food chain known for cheeky ads, did a spoof of their ad. Not to be out done, Santam responded with a challenge. Santam has been tracking as #1 on Twitter in South Africa all of yesterday.

"Rather plain," might not do justice. I'd call the original ad, starring Ben Kingsley, "mildly clever" (though depending on a false analogy). The exchange illustrates a build-up between a standard kind of artfulness in the original ad, followed by an out-of-the-box style based on cheeky humor, followed in turn by an equally unconventional reprisal that gives viewers the pleasure of aggression justified by charity. It's a lesson in how spontaneity and artful departure from convention are required to stand out in social media. It's not a simple formula of course -- viral social media requires a certain je ne sais quoi. In this case, Nando's served up an opportunity that someone at Santam was astute enough to read. Insurers should take note, while realizing that such efforts can easily fall flat or lead to brand-harming tastelessness. It's a matter of wit and judgment.

You can check out the original ad by clicking below first, or you can go directly by this link to see all three ads. But be sure to watch the ads from the bottom up to get the full effect. Santam remarked on its YouTube and Twitter success at a dedicated page on its home site. You'll want to read its brief "Back-at-ya" message because it wraps up the whole story, but don't do that until you've seen the exchange of ads.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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