In $30 Mil. Campaign, Cigna Woos the HR Department

The “thankless” job of the human resources director gets recognition in a business-to-business campaign for troubled insurance giant Cigna that breaks today.

The campaign, created by Omnicom’s DDB in New York, marks the first time Cigna is targeting human resources administrators in broadcast; a similar-themed print campaign ran from spring to fall last year. Five spots feature four administrators discussing the challenges and gratifying aspects of their jobs in contemplative settings.

Sources estimated Cigna’s media spend at $30 million, an increase from CMR’s estimate of $22 million last year. Cigna rivals Aetna, UnitedHealthCare and Wellpoint all spend less than $10 million on advertising, according to CMR.

Over the past year, the company has struggled with physician lawsuits and investor skepticism, and has laid off approximately 3,000 employees. Cigna chairman H. Edward Hanway has promised to address its difficulties.

In one spot, George, a director of human resources, talks about managing employee benefits. “It’s a balancing act,” he says, standing on a windy pier and looking at a calm ocean. “You want to adhere to the company mandate about controlling benefit costs. On the other hand, you’re on the frontline in dealing with employees’ benefit issues.” He adds that he’s a ballroom dancer, and he sees the insurer and its employees as dance partners and seeks to generate harmony and rhythm with both.

Explained Ed Faruolo, client vp of brand strategy: “It seems simple on the surface, but the provider who can make this connection with employee benefits managers will gain strategic advantage in the marketplace.”

Another spot features an autumnal theme, with HR director Bill in the woods, talking about the issue of credibility. “We ask people to contribute to their pension plans, and if we’re matching that deduction to a company that we can’t trust, then we’re in the wrong business,” he says, standing amid a carpet of yellow leaves.

A third spot features Cheryl, an employee-benefits director, at home on a couch with her two daughters. She says that while the job is in some respects “thankless,” she has always loved helping people. And while some people regard Patricia, an svp and administrator who appears in another spot, as “obnoxious,” she knows she does right by her co-workers: “When I go out to get these benefits, I kind of keep myself in mind.”

“Every product Cigna sells is sold first through a company, and the gatekeeper is the benefits manager,” said David Wismer, DDB group account director on the campaign. “It worked so well in print, we thought, ‘Let’s expand it to television.’ ”

Narration is by Donald Sutherland, the voice behind the Philadelphia-based insurer’s ads since 1995.