Special NZ won a Cannes Lion for selling life insurance?!

Ryan O'Connell
By Ryan O'Connell | 29 June 2023
Ryan O'Connell.

Ogilvy Sydney Chief Strategy Officer Ryan O'Connell

Another Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is in the rearview mirror, which means it’s time for everyone who attended to swap their rosé glasses for reading glasses, and get back to work on that retail banner ad brief they’ve been ignoring for a week.

Hhmm, can you tell I’m a little bitter I didn’t go to the south of France this year?! Best I not be so transparent, and swiftly lift the tone of this piece a little. Which is easily done, to be honest, because the one thing Cannes does do every year is positively inspire.

It’s always wonderful to look at the campaigns that won, and be filled with professional jealousy. I think it’s healthy for the green-eyed monster inside all of us to be unleashed and provoked into coming out by campaigns you really wished you had done. Channelled in the right way, it can motivate us to get better and do better work.

Thankfully, once again there was oodles of work from around the globe - and pleasingly, plenty from Australia - that evoked said jealousy.

Yet there was one campaign in particular that was frustratingly inspirational.

This is a sickening love note to a Cannes Lion Grand Prix winner who had the audacity to win for attempting to sell something as morbid as life insurance. (Yes, pun well and truly intended.)

That’s right, life insurance. Not purpose. Not hope. Not ‘good’. For life insurance.

The campaign was The Last Performance’ for Partners Life, by Special New Zealand. If you haven’t seen the case study yet, then do yourself the proverbial favour and stop reading this banal rubbish and watch it instead.

Ok good, you’re back. Annoyingly good, isn’t it?

There is all manner of reasons to rate this campaign. Mind-blowingly awesome creative idea. Great Comms Planning. Engaging humour. Beautiful craft. The list could go on and on. However, there is one big lesson here: don’t ever let your creativity be stifled by the media choice.

At its heart, this campaign is still just your regular old TVC. Yet Special NZ and Partners Life didn’t let their answer lack high-level creativity. How are often have you heard the sentiment “OK, we’ll bash out a TV script, but then do something cool and innovative in another channel”, or something similar? Not here, it’s a clever use of a traditional channel, and a good reminder that creativity should be applied to all thinking and channels.

Trust me, I’d prefer nothing less than to be trumpeting anything produced by Special NZ. My best mate, John Marshall, is the GM there, and our relationship is based on spite, not compliments. Likewise, my “nemesis” Rory Gallery was even in Cannes to pick-up the deserved metal for this campaign, and I always wish him whatever the opposite of success is.

So it’s through the most gritted of teeth that I applaud this campaign for its genius, but fair’s fair, it really is a stunningly brilliant campaign.

The Ogilvy Sydney Strategy team discuss and debate a campaign each week in our WIP. In the long history of this tradition, there have been no campaigns that have achieved universal praise. None. Zero. Zilch.

Last week, this one was universally admired by all. I can’t stress how impressive that is. Mrs “It won’t actually work” loved it. Mr “I hate every campaign that I didn’t do” loved it. Mrs “It’s pretty similar to this niche campaign from 25 years ago in Belarus that no one saw” loved it. Even Mr “I’m a Contrarian and will always go against what the department thinks” loved it. (Full transparency: all those Strategy archetypes are actually just me.)

Another reason to love it, is because you can almost see the client brief. So many Cannes winners are received with tepid jealously, because it’s pretty obvious the agency wrote the brief themselves. If there even was a brief. Or a client.

However, “create awareness and consideration for the importance of life insurance” is not just a real brief, for a real client . . . it’s also a really tough one. I know, I’ve worked on that exact brief. And I didn’t help create anything as awesome as ‘The Last Performance’.

So stuff you, Special NZ, and your amazing campaign.

But also, thank you Special NZ, and your amazing campaign.

While I’m extremely proud of the work that comes out Ogilvy Australia and our own award success, it’s always good to get a kick up the pants and want to do even better. And be reminded that creativity shouldn’t be stifled by the media choice.

So, chur . . . I guess.


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