After six years of relying on its faithful Snoopy mascot, MetLife is trotting out a new campaign: If consumers are worried about the "if" in "life," they can count on the insurer to help them create their own safety net. It's a clever, elegant platform that gracefully defines the New York insurer's place in a complicated financial world.

The $30 million "if" campaign began running on Father's Day on major networks and cable TV (in both 60-second and 30-second spots) and print advertisements in daily newspapers, newsweeklies and magazines, and will run until fall. The music driving the TV spot is an arrangement from original Linus and Lucy cartoons, allowing the company to exploit a highly recognizable element of the brand. And, of course, Snoopy silently skips across the TV screen.

The premise is simple, but effective: As the "if" letters are lifting out of the MetLife logo, a voiceover says, "For such a small word, 'if' packs a wallop. We all have personal ifs. Some are big: 'If I live to 100.' Some are small: 'If I break my pinky and have to type left-handed.' Today, 'if' is in the news a lot: 'If my benefits from work can't do it alone; if Social Security isn't enough.' 'If' can hold you back: 'If I fall.' 'If my heart gets broken.' Or 'if' can propel you forward: 'If it works.' 'If she says 'yes'. We believe 'if' should never hold you back. If should be managed with a plan that builds on what you already have. Together, we can build a personal, guaranteed safety net. No, a launching pad, for all those brilliant 'ifs,' a million types of 'if,' and they're all smack-dab in the middle of life. Call on our expertise and to make a plan with guarantees for the 'if' in life. After all, we're MetLife."

Recognizing that consumers today are shouldering the financial burdens of their lives more than previous generations, the platform focuses on what they need to help them make those decisions: the guarantees and advice of a dependable partner like MetLife. "This campaign is not only about preparing for the unexpected-it's about planning for the unexpected," notes C. Robert Henrikson, president and CEO of MetLife, in a statement. "Consumers must understand that there are resources to ensure their financial security in lieu of the traditional guarantees our parents relied on, such as Social Security and pensions."

But the company, which sells a wide range of retirement and insurance products, had more in mind than just selling more life insurance to consumers. "This is also a positioning of the company on the institutional side, not just an ad campaign for the retail side," explains Bill Webster, vp of advertising and promotion at MetLife, which claims 88 of the 100 top Fortune 500 clients as employee-benefits customers. "Part of what we're trying to do is a rallying cry for the company, to reinforce the benefits that we offer. The company is looking to be aggressive in that market." The firm recently bought the Travelers Life & Annuity from Citigroup.

MetLife, which last launched a campaign in 2000 with its "Have You Met Life Today?" platform, reviewed more than a dozen campaigns before settling on the "If" message, says Webster, taking nearly a year to get to market. "There's always has been uncertainty in life," says Kim Corrigan, evp and director for client services at New York City advertising agency Foote Cone & Belding, which designed the campaign. "That uncertainty has its negatives and its positives. It's wonderful to think about what may come. But it's managing the uncertainties that lead us to this notion that we need to plan for the 'if" in life. MetLife is in the business of guarantees." The use of Snoopy also was not a hard sell. "The ads reinforce the familiarity of the brand and refresh the message so that it compliments this new platform," says Corrigan. "And Snoopy gives it warmth." The ad was intentionally created so that it could be modified with other real-life examples in the future, she says.

It looks like the message hit home. "The use of 'if' as the centerpiece to the campaign is done very artfully," observes Tom Simons, president and creative director of Boston-based advertising firm PARTNERS+simons, which claims Sovereign Bank and Sun Life Financial as clients. "It's a very clever and insightful lever for an insurance company. A lack of control is something that everybody feels when you're dealing with the big financial questions in your life." The firms' successful weaving of an old concept-the ever-present Snoopy mascot-with the new "if" idea gives the campaign a long shelf life. "The various treatments suggest an infinite number of artistic interpretations," says Simons.

However, he doesn't believe the campaign differentiates MetLife from its competitors. "I don't think there's anything about the company that another insurance company couldn't use if 'life' was a part of their name as well. There's not too much of a tie-in to the actual company. Why couldn't Mutual Life or New York life run the same ad?" (c) 2006 U.S. Banker and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.us-banker.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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