Ad of the Day: John Hancock

Anxious investors literally speak the same language in Hill Holliday's theatrical new TV spots

Serious ads aren't always the quickest and easiest road to take, but they can be very effective. Financial-services company John Hancock has a novel take on the bear-market blues with three new synchronized-dialogue spots about one fear that dogs every aging investor: late-life destitution caused by a market collapse.

Hill Holiday and director Simon McQuoid have done a bang-up job keeping the string-heavy score in the background just shy of mawkish, and the conceit is as simple as it is trenchant—multiple actors in the same age range shot in naturalistic settings, in a theatrical style on a soundstage, voicing exactly the same anxieties by delivering the same lines at the same time.

The settings are a bedroom, office and living room, with the office spot arguably the most effective, because the gentle, don't-worry caress of the other spots is a little less pronounced. Our elder investor asks a younger colleague, who questions his decision to put his retirement money into the volatile market, "Isn't it riskier doing nothing?" He could have added, "You cynical young fool." Be the zinger, not the zingee, future John Hancock investor.

To be brutally honest, the ads are a little worrisome—companies looking for a quick connection to the viewer don't usually tell us gently that everything will be OK unless there's good reason to believe everything will not be OK. Still, financial services are one sector where reassurance is a time-honored advertising tactic. Remember Robert De Niro crying over a Merrill Lynch ad in Analyze This?

One thing the Hancock ads have that 1999's Merrill Lynch didn't is significant diversity among the "clients" in its ads—the bedroom spot in particular makes a point of showing a black wife, at least two white wives, and an Asian wife reassuring their respective spouses that the sky is not, in fact, falling. A nice touch: Under the John Hancock logo, we get little glowing descriptions of the services JH provides—mutual funds, 401(k)s, insurance, hope.

Talk with your financial adviser, swami or pastor.

Also, try not to think about how Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch at a fire sale during the financial crisis.


Client: John Hancock

Agency: Hill Holliday, Boston

Chief Creative Officer: Lance Jensen

Creative Director, Copywriter: Mark Nardi

Creative Director, Art Director: Bob Gates

Senior Vice President, Executive Producer: Scott Hainline

Production Company: Imperial Woodpecker

Director: Simon McQuoid

Editor: Andre Betz, Bug Editorial