How a Singapore Insurance Company Responded to Crisis

Ads From Bartle Bogle Promise Prompt Payment of Claims After Torrential Rains

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SINGAPORE (AdAge.com) -- Waving the flag of corporate responsibility, Singapore's biggest insurance company is wading into torrential local rains and flooding with a promise to pay for massive property damage. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), quickly took out ads in local Singapore newspapers with headlines like "You can be sure of one thing with us -- someone will pay for this."

After intense rain fell in the central parts of Singapore within three hours on June 16, the storm submerged Orchard Road, one of Singapore's main shopping districts, and other parts of the island state. The storm left Singaporeans, including many retailers such as Starbucks, facing massive property damage.

NTUC ad
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This NTUC ad ran in 'The Straits Times.'

Much of that damage will be covered by local insurance company NTUC Income, which quickly started running ads late last week reassuring consumers that they were insured.

The insurance company, a Singapore-based cooperative, ran tactical ads in two major local dailies, The Straits Times, with a readership of 1.43 million, and a tabloid, Today, whose readership is about 700,000. Singapore's total population is just less than 5 million.

The full-page color ad in The Straits Times showed a photo of submerged cars on Orchard Road with copy that said "You can be sure of one thing with us -- someone will pay for this." The ad in Today newspaper read, "We won't leave you high and dry. Even when you're waist-deep in water." The ad ran at the bottom of a page with stories and photos about the flooding.

NTUC's ad agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Singapore, came up with the idea for the ad on Wednesday afternoon, said the agency's Asia Chairman Charles Wigley. The ads were quickly approved by NTUC and broke on Thursday morning.

"It was satisfyingly quick turnaround time and it's had an amazing response," Mr. Wigley said. "Brands respond quickly to events in western markets like the U.K., but not in Singapore, so people thought [NTUC's response this week] was really interesting."

Singaporeans, known throughout Asia as demanding consumers, responded enthusiastically to the ads. Bloggers, journalists and academics lit up social networking sites with comments and online discussions.

NTUC has been trying to change its image through quirky ads for the past two years.

"It has become an active brand anyway, very interactive about developing brand energy," Mr. Wigley said.

Last year, for instance, it installed real phones on posters placed at bus stops that let consumers call the NTUC while waiting for the bus. Another campaign featured mirrors alongside the tagline, "Hello, Boss," a reference to the insurer's cooperative ownership structure.

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