The planner behind the tears: Heleen Hidskes, Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam

Heleen Hidskes, planner, Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam, talks to IPA Effectiveness editor Carlos Grande.



When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?
The campaign launched in October 2012. Three reasons made DELA consider revamping its brand and communications.

The year 2012 was a tough year for DELA. DELA’s reputation scores plummeted due to the financial crisis and a report conducted by the Dutch Authority for Financial Markets that took its toll on the image of all funeral insurers - hitting DELA’s reputation as a market leader even harder.

Besides this reputational damage, DELA also wanted to show its true face again. As a non-profit cooperative, founded 75 years ago to combat injustice around the undertaking trade, DELA believes in a dignified farewell for everyone, but above all in being there for each other during life. It is its ambition to ensure that its members are able to face a future as carefree as possible. This cooperative identity had remained underexposed in recent years.

And last but not least new commercial objectives were set at the beginning of 2011. DELA’s ambition was to achieve solid and permanent growth from both existing and new products, such as insurance-based saving programs. To succeed, the DELA brand needed a repositioning. DELA had to become a cooperative to which people wanted to belong. And as a member, purchase a broad spectrum of products beyond funeral services alone.

How did you feel about the original brief?
The initial brief was to develop a corporate branding campaign with two key objectives: revive the brand reputation and create a foundation for DELA to introduce new product propositions. We immediately got excited about this opportunity. The first challenge was to convince the client to take a broader perspective on corporate branding, since its initial thoughts were to build a heritage campaign linked to their 75 years of existence.

How hard was it to get the campaign green lit?
Though we convinced the client (by showing inspiring work like P&G’s ‘Thank You’ Mom and Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign) that we should build an engaging platform for consumers, we were fully aware that the creative concept we presented was something they would’ve never expected.

We knew the client had to be courageous to pursue with this route. It probably was the most thrilling pitch presentation we ever did. In the presentation we dictated the speeches of fictional characters (that later became real versions), backed up by music to set the mood. By sensing the emotional reactions in the room, we knew we sold the idea. Even more important, we got to execute the idea exactly how we initially pitched it.

When and how did you first know that you had been successful?
When the commercials went live on television, people immediately started to respond on Twitter. The TVCs made them cry and gave them goose bumps. We really knew we hit a cultural nerve when people started to talk about ‘DELA moments’ on national TV and radio.

What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

The same area that is always difficult: proving the return on marketing investment. This is difficult for a beer brand, but even more difficult for a funeral insurance company that is a cooperative and therefore doesn’t measure lifetime customer value out of principle.

What lessons did this campaign teach you? 
If a category has a certain tension it is a safe choice for a brand to stay away from it. But tapping into a tension makes your campaign much more interesting and relevant. That’s what we did, with relevant communications that was created from a striking human truth. Everyone knows the stirring eulogies given at funerals. The question "Why wait until it's too late?" is an insight that transforms this into something positive.

And instead of just talking about DELA’s identity in a top down manner, we acted upon it by giving consumers a platform to share their words to their loved ones through paid media. In doing so we created a lot of value for consumers and we received a lot of value in return.

What were the low points/high points of this campaign?
The overall performance was a definite high point. A brand campaign that doesn’t communicate a single product or product feature, doing so well for DELA’s sales figures, was something that we were very proud of.

What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?
During the first flight of the campaign we realised that we could have leveraged the concept of sharing beautiful words with your loved ones (before it is too late), through even more channels than we already did.

Even though we used all the channels imaginable, we didn’t put partnerships with TV and radio stations in the mix immediately. But fortunately, after the two flights of the "Why wait until it’s too late" campaign DELA now also has its own television format that is built on the core thought of the campaign.