While the concept of the American family certainly has evolved over the last century, most sociologists would agree that its importance remains primary in people's lives. Boston-based John Hancock is banking on this theory with its latest television ad campaign, which asks viewers to take stock of their families-literally.

Created by agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, also of Boston, the 30- and 60-second spots replace stock-market numbers with surnames. "Think about your family and yourself as a company with assets to protect and grow-a financial future to be managed," says the voice-over. "At John Hancock, we now offer a wider range of innovative investment opportunities, giving you access to some of the world's best companies." Screen shots include stock tickers, newspaper articles and cab-tops with the names, not numbers, as key information. "So what do you think about the Burns family?" asks one man at a golf driving range. "Positive cash flow and a conservative balance sheet," replies the other, taking a swing.

The campaign is John Hancock's first since its 2004 merger with Manulife Financial, a Canadian financial services group with $297 billion in assets under management. Following the merger, John Hancock began offering more investment products-including mutual funds, annuities, retirement planning, college savings, and long-term care and life insurance. Donna Driscoll, svp of brand management and corporate communication, says, therefore, the campaign has two targets: consumers and those who sell to them. "The idea is our products are sold by intermediaries and financial advisors and brokers, but they're sold to consumers," Driscoll says. "And whether or not it's a one-person household, or a two-person or a multi-person family, they are the ones who use our product. ...So you connect the need to immediately telegraph that we're in the investments arena and bring the humanity component by talking about the family."

It's a logical approach, says Bruce Clapp, president of Dayton, OH-based financial marketing firm MarketMatch, because it's one that stems from the company's established role. "Obviously, they've long been involved in protecting the family," he says. "So I think it makes sense from an extension of their capabilities about protecting the family, and now they're looking to grow that family." Indeed, the ads have a decidedly paternal tone, which John Hancock works to its full advantage. "We did this on a very tight timetable" that began in July, says Driscoll, who notes the ads began running in October. "I said, 'I really want new advertising for the World Series.'" The ads also were slotted to run during male-centric ESPN fare: "SportsCenter," "College Football," "NFL Countdown" and "College Football Game Day."

The spots are clever, using mostly well-known visual and some audio switcheroos-including a radio report announcing: "The Peterson family has ended the day on a positive note," as two parents and their child stroll happily down the street. "We thought about people who make decisions in buying and selling corporations," says Doug Gould, svp of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. "Ultimately, if you're an investor in any company, when they buy and sell those companies in large mutual funds or investments, they're in essence buying and selling a piece of you, of your financial future."

Supplementing the spots are trade print ads aimed squarely at the intermediaries, which boast: "Innovative investment products your clients should know about, from a company they know very well." Driscoll won't comment on the campaign's total cost, but says John Hancock spent "just under $10 million" in its media budget last year, a number it expects to increase in 2006 as the company expands its advertising channel base. Until that point, it will use the latest campaign through the second quarter, which Driscoll believes is good for company morale. "Our sales force is in love with it," she says. "They're very excited. It's very validating for the work that they do, and it's being warmly received."

No wonder. "Through research, [John Hancock] discovered that people knew them as a life insurer, but less as an investment company," Gould says. "So the work was designed to make people aware that investments were a big part of who they were, and that Hancock understood that you had to look your life in the spectrum of the way the business world works, because the two are interconnected." (c) 2006 U.S. Banker and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.us-banker.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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