Top 7 Insurance Commercials: #5 Centraal Beheer

After a short break, we’re back with our series of our favourite insurance commercials from around the globe. In this part of the series, we’ll see some Dutch commercials from the Centraal Beheer insurance company.

Centraal Beheer is very well known for its string of funny commercials that have gone on for about 15 years. The stories tend to revolve around a usual topic. Characters are doing something normal that suddenly goes terribly wrong — of course with a humorous overtone. The resulting disaster is always only outlined, and the result is left for the viewer’s imagination.

The commercials always end with the phrase “Even Apeldoorn bellen,” which means “Let’s call Apeldoorn” (in the international versions, it’s “Just call us”). Apeldoorn is the nickname of the company — it’s the town in which Centraal Beheer is headquartered. The phrase from the commercials became so popular that it found its way into common language in the Netherlands and is used whenever things go wrong.

We’ve picked three of the commercials that we found the most entertaining and hope you’ll enjoy them!

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Insurance companies have been competing in the art of making tragedy look funny for decades. This summer commercial from Centraal Beheer is no exception. Situated in a South European–looking holiday destination, the feel-good atmosphere is the first and very essential thing that catches your attention. You can relate immediately to the family on vacation, relaxing in the sunshine.

The next step involves some kind of a stupid mistake, a human error. Now, the challenge here is making things look funny and not tragic. The director chose to go for a James Bond scene this time, so even if you don’t realize it, you immediately switch to action movie mode and you’re not afraid of the main character’s fate anymore.

The second trick employed every time in Centraal Beheer videos makes the catastrophe even less shocking. The commercials don’t show the outcome of the whole situation — they just focus on a funny moment before it all goes down (this time, the surprised look of the driver of a passing truck) and leave the outcome to the viewer’s imagination.

The third trick is the music. You can’t take the disaster very seriously when there’s a cover of Boney M’s Daddy Cool playing.

What we like about the commercial is that it’s really funny and light, with a moment of surprise even after it seems we’ve reached a happy ending. Even then, the car could have stopped before falling off the cliff in a very gruesome manner if the driver hit the brakes or the parking brake in time. The only thing not to like is the artificial chase scene reminiscent of a Bond movie.

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The second video starts with a couple of kids teaching a small dog to fetch a red ball on a whistle. The dog belongs to a man who’s apparently a drawbridge operator (and who kind of looks half like Robert De Niro and half like Ian McKellen), and he takes the dog with him to his workplace — the bridge.

After a bell announces an inbound ship, the man draws the bridge and wistfully observes a beautiful sailboat approaching the raised drawbridge. The ship greets the operator by blowing the whistle in a splendid moment of naval magnificence — the whole clip being, up until this moment, idealistic and as sugary as it gets, strengthened by aerial shots and rather distastefully romantic orchestral film music.

The ending scene contrasts with the whole video up until that moment beautifully and brings the insurance message home, of course. As the splendid ship enters the canal, she meets suddenly with what we can only assume will be her undoing. Her whistle has the most unfortunate effect on the drawbridge operator’s dog. The dog jumps after the red ball off the main lever, and the sound of the bridge once again in motion finishes the story.

Good job, Centraal Beheer. You’ve just turned a dream into a nightmare — an unrealistic dream into an even less realistic nightmare. The production of this video is fantastic, and the idea is creative, but we don’t like how you play with us.

As I wrote before and will probably write many more times, this is the most common concept of all insurance commercials — evoking a fear of unpredictable events that could jeopardize your wellbeing, and then offering a solution of protection through an insurance policy. It’s an exemplary case of emotional blackmailing.

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Our last pick shows a man who has decided to get acupuncture therapy. You can be sure this video will get under your skin. Yet the director manages to get away with a creative and entertaining way to end things.

We like how the Asian owner grabs his valuables and jumps from the window in a panic when he discovers that the whole building is on fire. Our unlucky patient, with dozens of needles stuck in his face and all over his body, is left with the uneasy choice of flame versus the firefighters’ jumping sheet.

Making the same concept original after it’s been used a hundred times is no easy task, but we really like how Centraal Beheer used storytelling and the moment of surprise this time. You have no idea what’s going to happen until the very last moment, when it strikes you at last. The outcome of the situation is entertaining — but exaggerated, of course. The needles probably wouldn’t do any harm to the patient on the landing if he hadn’t ripped them out by the time he jumped.

About the Insurance Company

Central Beheer is based in the small town of Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, so it’s commonly nicknamed “Apeldoorn.” It’s owned by one of the major players on the European insurance field, Achmea, which is among the largest providers of financial services. Achmea’s main focus is insurance, and it’s operated since 1811. That makes it a bit older than LSM.

We really like how the company invests in superb television ads and takes the concept into totally different environments all the time, so the viewer never knows whether they just started to watch an Apeldoorn ad. The diversity is outweighed by the stability of the “Even Apeldoorn bellen” message of each of the ads, which is one of the best we’ve seen as it emphasizes the local character of this insurance company.


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