Manulife looks to U.S. for new agency assignments

San Francisco's Heat will handle the insurance company's creative globally, including in Canada.

Insurance company and financial services provider Manulife has selected San Francisco’s Heat as its new creative agency.

Heat was chosen following a review that began in March, with a mandate that covers the company’s creative globally, including in Canada. It also covers work in some Asian markets and for the John Hancock brand, which Manulife operates in the U.S.

Heat – which has also done work with EA, Shutterfly and LG – was acquired last year by Deloitte Digital in what would be one of the early examples of large consultancies moving more into the creative space, both in the U.S. and Canada.

In an email, Manulife global CMO Gretchen Garrigues said the relationship with Deloitte helped Heat provide data-driven insights through its work, an important part of Manulife’s marketing strategy. She added that Heat delivered “breakthrough creative” during the review that reflected Manulife’s consumer-centric focus and emphasis it has been placing on digital channels, which are recent priorities for the company.

Garrigues joined Manulife last summer in what was a new position at the company, as it was restructuring its marketing department to be less organized by lines of business and more integrated.

Manulife has also selected a partnership between m/Six and Wunderman to handle media buying, planning and analytics. M/Six – itself created through a partnership between WPP’s GroupM and WPP-backed The&Partnership – opened a Canadian office last year, which will be working with Wunderman to handle the assignment locally.

Manulife previously worked with DentsuBos on creative and Mindshare on media in Canada following a review in 2014. Other Dentsu agencies handled creative in Asia. Hill Holiday in Boston had handled creative for John Hancock since 1985. It did not participate in the review.

DentsuBos’ recent work for Manulife included the “Uncover the Mortgage Truth” campaign (pictured above) that saw the brand shift from talking about product advantages to consumer insights (namely misconceptions they had about mortgages). Last year, the agency created a campaign for the Vitality life insurance program, at the time said to be Manulife’s biggest national marketing effort ever.

Shortly before the new agency partners were revealed, The Wall Street Journal reported that Manulife was considering filing an IPO or otherwise spinning off its U.S. John Hancock business, citing sourcing familiar with the matter. Manulife acquired John Hancock in 2003, but spinning it off has come up multiple times since Manulife was hit hard by the financial crisis and the division has contributed relatively little to Manulife’s profits compared to its divisions in Canada and Asia.