Marketing is Such Sweet Sorrow: 5 Questions with Thai Life’s Heartbreaker

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Its ads are maybe the most unique in the world at the moment, with its latest short film racking up over almost 6 million views in a month, still far short of the over 21 million views its previous longform commercial received. What’s more, the ads have no special effects, no star actors and no gags or punchlines.

Thai Life, a life insurance company based in (you guessed it) Thailand, has gained worldwide attention by making people anywhere feel it RIGHT HERE [jabs finger into heart].

But what most of the millions of viewers of Thai Life’s recent viral videos don’t know is that the brand has been producing award-winning branded entertainment like these heartbreaking videos for a decade, only gaining an international audience recently when it started adding English subtitles.

Ogilvy & Mather Thailand’s Thanawat Chongmahakul, the creative director behind the brand’s recent tearjerking videos, talked to brandchannel‘s Abe Sauer about how sorrowful themes can be a positive message for a brand, and how global fame helps its local reputation.[more]

brandchannel: How do you decide on a theme or an idea for a video? What inspired using the true story for “Street Concert,” for example?

Thanawat Chongmahakul: Among various impressive stories from consumers (via Thai Life’s 2014 social campaign), the idea for “Street Concert” was picked up and turned into a short film. When we first read the story, we felt that it was a simple and genuine life story, yet deeply impressive and appreciative, too. We were captivated by how a boy has tried his best to help his mother as much as just a boy can do. What is more important is it is a true story. So we wanted to share his story with other Thais and encourage them to start doing good things.

BC: Thai Life’s recent ads [watch below] seem to focus on a uncaring, harsh world in which a lone hero endures and is finally rewarded. How does this inform Thai Life’s message?

Chongmahakul: This year, Thai Life Insurance evolved its brand vision to be a trusted life partner taking care of people with true sincerity, without wishing for anything in return. Thus, we would like to communicate this new vision to consumers. Over the past year, Thailand has experienced rapid changes in the society, e.g. growth of urbanization raising materialism and self-focus culture, prolonged corruption raising taking advantage and selfishness perception. But the good in people was missing. Understanding that Thais are desperately yearning for good and good people, Thai Life Insurance wanted to encourage Thais to believe in good and to inspire Thais in doing it. This will consistently create emotional connections with Thai Life Insurance brand.

BC: The Thai Life YouTube channel features a number of the brand’s equally if not even more heart-wrenching ads, such as “Marry Me” and “Forget Me Not.” Are the latest ads part of this tradition?

Chongmahakul: Thai Life Insurance has continually emphasized its positioning as “Caring for Thais” and its promise of “Value added for Life.” For over 10 years, we have been communicated this position and promise consistency in order to create long-term trust in the brand and business. Our communication strategy is to challenge contemporary Thais with our root of Thai values. We raise questions of how Thais currently live, incite them with our core Thai values, and provide answers through Thai Life insurance. We can wake up Thais to realize the real value of life and how they believe in ourselves, our values. It shows that the ultimate act of trust and care is the embodiment of Thai Life. Thus, each year we select key national issues to create socially controversial topics among consumers. Together with that, we capture the emotional reaction that perfectly fits for insurance moments.

BC: Was adding English subtitles a conscious decision for more exposure?

Chongmahakul: Thai Life Insurance is a regional insurance company. We have both local and foreigner customers, with representatives in neighboring Asian countries. Therefore, for the online channel, we provided English subtitles so that we could reach all customers without language limitations.

BC: The Thai Life ads have become popular worldwide, even though Thai Life is a regional brand. The exposure of the ads notwithstanding, how has Thai Life benefited from all of the attention?

Chongmahakul: As the insurance company that mainly operates with financial management, global recognition is reinforcing Thai Life’s credibility, integrity and professionalism. This global recognition helps local PR, and global exposure draws huge attention from Thai users. Our latest campaign earned media attention from TV, print and online regarding the worldwide response.

—Connect with Abe Sauer on Twitter: @abesauer

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