by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Traditionally, insurance companies have tended to deal with matters such as death and accidents with a certain amount of gravitas. After all, death is no laughing matter. Or is it?

In the latest TV spot from Hollard, by M&C Saatchi & Abel, the mould has been broken, with a commercial called “Caravan”.

M&C Saatchi Abel TVC for Hollard: “Caravan”

You’ve seen them — those caravans at the side of the road with a big sign saying “Psychic”, promising to help you with your love life, your finances and/or health. They seem to stay for a short while, then move on, either because they’ve been asked to by the police, or because their clientèle has dried up. After all, there are only so many gullible people in any particular suburb.

Hollard Caravan TVC screengrab 5The ad starts with an expensive car pulling up outside one of these fortune-teller caravans. The sign above the door reads “Mystic Marie”. A well-dressed woman wearing sunglasses (even though it’s night-time) makes her way to the caravan. The music is comical, and the woman totters a bit on the uneven ground, setting the tone for the rest of the ad.

A closer shot as she enters reveals a sign that reads: “Speak to the past. Know the future.” A smaller bumper sticker reads: “I love Margate.”

Inside, the ‘client’ passes a photograph to the fortune-teller, and says, “I’d like to speak to my husband, please.” A close-up on the framed picture shows a young man, smiling.

The décor inside the caravan is as one might expect to find inside one of those seaside attractions: lots of chintzy drapery, candles and crystals. The fortune-teller launches into a bit of psychic mumbo-jumbo, before telling her client, “I can feel him. He’s here. You may speak, my dear.”

Hollard Caravan TVC screengrabIronically, even though the fortune-teller’s décor is pure Romany, the fortune-teller’s accent is 100% Cape Town.

The woman removes her glasses. “Vusi?” she says, “Vusi, can you hear me? Vusi, you left us WITH NOTHING!” — as she shouts the last words, the fortune-teller looks startled, and the woman continues: “No more ballet for Thogo, and no more piano for Sipho. And where are we supposed to stay now — in a caravan?”

The woman stops herself and looks apologetically at the fortune-teller, who shrugs sympathetically.

Plank Film Productions put together a great team for this ad: the set design is excellent, the lighting and cinematography are spot-on, and Peter Pohorsky’s direction gets the most out of his two great performers. Well, they seem great, and that’s the job of a good director and editor, isn’t it?

Hollard has taken a risk, by treating a dark subject with levity, and it has paid off.

Hollard Caravan TVC screengrab 2Yes, the death of a family member is a sad topic, and nobody wants to think about the possibility of death, especially an untimely one, but it’s the insurance industry’s business to make people think about these eventualities in a proactive way.

Often this takes the form of sombre presentations by aging TV icons on ‘the importance of planning for the future’, but these have usually been reach-for-the-remote moments: no-one wants to be lectured by a grey man about one’s possible demise, and leaving one’s ‘loved ones’ destitute.

As for this ad, it signals a change in Hollard’s slogan. The short- and long-term insurance company refreshed its logo earlier this year, and the old slogan of “Expect the unexpected” has now also been replaced.

Getting back to the fortune-teller, who by this stage is staring in shock at her client:

Hollard Caravan TVC screengrab 3“Oh, and another thing — this…” the woman exclaims, gesturing to herself and perhaps the entire fortune-telling caravan, “… doesn’t come cheap!” She slams the table and Vusi’s picture falls over. There is the sound of thunder.

The exterior scene shows the entire caravan shaking as the woman continues her tirade: “What were you thinking? I have to wash my own car, Vusi!”

The payoff line reads: “Ensure your family love you… forever.”

Hats off to Hollard and M&C Saatchi & Abel for pushing the boundaries in this ad and creating an entertaining — yet thought-provoking — message.

Advertising agency: M&C Saatchi Abel, Cape Town, South Africa
Creative director: Gordon Ray
Art director: Ntobeko Ximba
Copywriter: Kayli Vee Levitan
Agency producer: Bronwyn Henry
Director: Peter Pohosky
Producer: Anco Henning
Production company: Plank Films
Post production: Upstairs Post-production
Music: HeyPapaLegend Studios — Ross McDonald
Editor: Kobus Loots
Online editor: Charmaine Greyling


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.

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