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Marketer: MetLife Agency: Eight Partnership

The U.S.'s largest insurer brings a beloved American icon to China

[Shanghai, China] MetLife has called on Snoopy, one of America's most beloved icons, to promote United MetLife Insurance Co.'s 50-50 joint venture in China with venture-capital firm Shanghai Alliance Investment.

The campaign is part of a renewed effort by MetLife to brand itself for the Chinese market, following its acquisition last year of Travelers Life & Annuity from CitiGroup. The joint venture with Shanghai Alliance, the investment arm of Shanghai's city government managed by Jiang Mianheng, son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, was formerly called CitiInsurance Life Insurance Co.

MetLife, meanwhile, has an existing joint venture in China, Sino-US MetLife Insurance Co., established with Capital Airport Group. That business will continue operate separately in the mainland.

Although the Peanuts cartoon character has been MetLife's brand mascot for decades, a campaign now running in Shanghai marks the first time Snoopy has been the central theme of its advertising, according to Charles Brian-Boys, managing partner of Eight Partnership, an independent marketing consultancy in Shanghai with headquarters in Hong Kong.

The campaign was also created to emphasize MetLife's corporate governance while differentiating its brand and values from the competition.

"China's insurance industry has had a lot of negative PR, because of fake policies and scams, and it's not just from local companies, U.S. and European companies have also been guilty of this," said Mr. Brian-Boys. "The Snoopy character lent itself to that really well because he represents the same values as the company: reliability, understanding, commitment. A dog is man's best friend, and we wanted to give MetLife the same image among Chinese."

Last month, MetLife blanketed the main arteries and the waterfronts of Shanghai, along the popular Bund area, including a 20-story animated Snoopy billboard on the 60-story Aurora Building in Shanghai's Pudong district. Large billboards and hundreds of posters appeared on the streets featuring Snoopy and the tagline, "MetLife. Your friend for life." The monthlong campaign is also running in daily business press, outdoor media in other parts of China and in internal communications for staff and sales agents.

The largest life-insurance company in the U.S., MetLife is eager to get a share of China's financial-services sector, which is opening up to foreigners such as MetLife and European competitors HSBC and AIG through China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
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