INTERNATIONAL: THE WORLD’S TOP CLIENTS; Centraal Beheer revitalises financial ads

A provincial insurer became a household name with a quirky ad strategy.

A provincial insurer became a household name with a quirky ad strategy.

Insurance is not often cited as a product that inspires ground-breaking

advertising. Yet at the International Advertising festival at Cannes,

commercials from a little-known Dutch insurance company - Centraal

Beheer - have been regularly picking up prize after prize.

Over the past ten years the group, which is based in the Dutch town of

Apeldoorn, and its agency, DDB Amsterdam, has created its own brand of

distinctive advertising through a blend of wit and stunning visuals.

It’s an advertising strategy which has won the group several lions over

the years, and has been pretty successful at winning it friends and new

business at home, too.

Centraal Beheer’s slogan - ‘Insurance claim? Ring Apeldoorn!’ - is

almost a household saying now in Holland, with a staggering nine out of

ten people able to identify what it stands for. Even better, during the

last decade, Centraal Beheer has jumped from 12th to fourth place in the

pecking order of Dutch insurance companies.

The insurer’s commercials are subtly humorous, visually stimulating and

always have an unexpected ending. Perhaps the most famous is a film that

collected a gold lion at the Cannes advertising festival and the Grand

Award from the New York festivals in 1993.

It opens with a grainy black-and-white sequence showing a ship being

loaded. Various accidents are waiting to happen - such as a chain

breaking - but never actually do. As the captain makes his final

inspection, though, the viewer sees the ship’s name - Titanic - painted

on the bows. ‘Just call us’ then flashes on the screen.

Another film features a Rastafarian on a scooter painting the central

white lines on a narrow mountain road. He swerves to avoid a hedgehog

and nearly disappears over the edge. Finally, he manages to pull his

vehicle back on to the road and cheerfully continues on his way. Behind

him, though, the white line he was painting still perilously leads over

the precipice. What, the viewer is left thinking, will happen when other

vehicles follow? Again, the Centraal Beheer slogan flashes up on screen.

Later, the theme was taken up in a film about tattoos, where a sailor

walks into a tattoo parlour and chooses a heart to be inked into his

shoulder. The Chinese tattooist is halfway through the process when he

gets a phone call and starts bellowing into the receiver. As he has

nothing else to hand he uses his tattoo needle and makes notes on the

sailor’s skin.

The Centraal Beheer commercials are always technically well put together

and television is an appropriate lead medium for the company. More

detailed information is conveyed through back-up print advertising,

posters and specialised direct marketing.

Centraal Beheer is a so-called ‘direct writer’ and works without

middlemen. Its enormous success began when the company’s then head of

communications, Aad Muntz, approved the strategy that DDB outlined to

him and gave it the scope and the budget to make the trademark


Muntz, now retired, has a sharp sense of humour and appreciated DDB’s

‘twist in the tail’ theme. It was a universally successful ploy and

there was hardly a national or international advertising festival where

Muntz and the DDB creative directors, Paul Meijer and Wim Ubachs, and

later, Lode Schaeffer and Erik Wunsch, didn’t appear on the podium to

pick up an award.

Schaeffer, 32, and Wunsch, 34, have been a creative team for more than

eight years. They were ‘discovered’ and taken on by Paul Meijer, but

learned their trade from Bart Kuiper at Lowe Kuiper and Schouten. Wunsch

and Schaeffer are super-disciplined, intelligent creatives. They are

seldom spotted at parties or receptions or even at the usual advertising

watering holes. Which is perhaps whyÿ20they have carried on the tradition

of Centraal Beheer’s unusually quirky advertising so well.