Manulife gives global media and creative duties to Dentsu

A new dedicated agency unit will help the insurer more cohesively come to life across markets and lines of business.

After a six-month review process, Manulife has picked Dentsu as its global media and creative partner to amplify and evolve its brand across markets.

According to Karen Leggett, Manulife’s global CMO, the partner-seeking exercise was to consolidate into a single best-in-class agency with the ability to support on global brand strategy, but also have localization and be able to tailor work for each market across the financial brand’s global footprint.

“This was a really important initiative for us to bring greater consistency and leverage to our brand on a global scale,” says Leggett, who tells strategy that strategy was attempted in the past, but wasn’t ultimately realized.

In 2017, Manulife picked San Francisco agency Heat as its global creative AOR. At the same time, it gave media duties to a partnership between WPP’s M/Six and Wunderman. However, Manulife also brought in other agencies, such as The&Partnership on creative and Dentsu on media in some markets in Asia.

As part of its new three-year term, Dentsu will create a dedicated unit dubbed Green Thread, pulling in creative and media talent from across its network to handle marketing for Manulife and its various segments across the globe.

The insurer operates across four segments globally: Manulife in Canada and ten countries in Asia, John Hancock in the U.S. and its global investment management business. Historically, its marketing has functioned at the segment level, with different agencies handling the different work, Leggett says.

For the selection process, Manulife wanted a shop with a robust understanding of its different lines of business, whether it’s health, life, medical, group benefits, retail investment and retirement products. “We had a good sense of [Dentsu's] capabilities…and [they] had done good work [for us] in the past,” Leggett says. DentsuBos had previously handled creative duties in Canada prior to the 2017 AOR selection.

“We needed a partner that could scale to that level and have an understanding of the complexity of our business,” she says. Going forward, Manulife is going to be “more vocal” about how it comes to market, particularly on the brand side, and will continue to activate campaigns at the local level as it develops a global brand strategy.

Another factor in the decision, Leggett says, is linking up with organization that is “significantly data and insights-driven,” as Manulife is an organization that’s developed a clear formula for its marketing ROI.

New creative from Green Thread is expected to debut both in Canada and other global markets in Q1. Dentsu is currently being onboarded, and expects to staff up to handle the new business.