Nationwide's CMO on Why the Jingle Still Matters

Terrance Williams Talks About Changing Customer Perception, Marketing to Millennials

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Terrance Williams is CMO of Nationwide.
Terrance Williams is CMO of Nationwide. Credit: Nationwide

As exec VP and chief marketing officer of Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide, Terrance Williams is dealing with an uptick in insurance rates, an increasing number of competitors, and of course, a millennial consumer. A 21-year veteran of the 90-year-old company, which spent $279 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media, Mr. Williams just passed the one-year mark in his tenure as top marketer. He tells Ad Age why, more than ever, Nationwide is on your side.

Ad Age: You've had the "Nationwide is on your side" slogan for decades. Why have you stuck with it so long, and are there any plans for a refresh?

Mr. Williams: When you think about what "on your side" means and represents, it's part of our DNA. The jingle aligns with who we are. It's stood the test of time—it doesn't hurt that it's kind of catchy! We envision that it will always be part of who we are—you'll see elements and threads of it in our advertising on an ongoing basis and we may even tap into it even more.

Ad Age: The insurance industry is under pressure from higher rates and increased competition. How are you addressing these issues in your marketing?

Mr. Williams: Millennials play a significant role in who Nationwide is on several fronts—in the people we wish to become members of Nationwide, from a consumption point, but also the desire to recruit millennials. We are also beginning to tell the story of how we are more than a business. We exist not for profit's sake but to honor the promises made to our members and ensure we're making a difference in our community. That's through the work that we do with Nationwide Children's Hospital, United Way, Red Cross and Feeding America. Not only do we support those organizations by way of dollars, but we encourage our associates to get engaged and find the charity of their choice to volunteer at. We plan to do more talking about that to ensure we're connecting with millennials and consumers who care about corporate citizenship.

Ad Age: How are you changing your digital mix to cater to millennials?

Mr. Williams: We are investing more into digital. We're changing our overall mix and will in fact do more digital in 2017 than we ever have in the history of our company. That's all aspects of digital—social, video on demand, all the platforms. Over 50% of our total media spend will be digital.

Ad Age: You've been working with Ogilvy & Mather for decades—they even created your slogan—but you just named them your lead agency. Why did you decide to solidify the relationship?

Mr. Williams: We rekindled the relationship with Ogilvy two years ago and they're now our primary creative lead agency. In years past, we've had multiple creative agencies and now we have one. We wanted to ensure we were connecting with an agency that could understand us, our culture and who we are, and that plays a specific role in their ability to create content that aligns with the brand.

Ad Age: Are any new campaigns underway?

Mr. Williams: Our goal is to tell a different story about who Nationwide is. The jingle is iconic—people will stop me in airports and at coffee shops and sing it. People know it's connected to Nationwide, and that's a good thing. The bad thing is that most of America views Nationwide as an auto insurance company that also sells home insurance. We've evolved into a number of products and solutions over the past 25 years and we haven't adequately told the story. Now that we're under one brand, our advertising has to tell that story so consumers understand. We can do that through a new creative campaign that we're looking to launch in late summer or early fall. The fact that we're working on a new campaign is just one part of the picture. The new effort will serve as an umbrella backdrop telling America who we are as one brand, the breadth of solutions. As we move beyond national TV into digital vehicles, that will give us the ability to be more prescriptive and target specific consumers with specific messages.

Ad Age: You've been a sponsor of the NFL for three years. Will a focus on sports continue to be a part of Nationwide's strategy?

Mr. Williams: The NFL is incredibly broad and gives us the ability to tap into a number of segments. It's hard to find another vehicle that offers the same breadth when you think about the TV viewing habits of today's American consumer and the way that data is consumed. We'll also continue our partnership with Peyton Manning—although he's retired, he's still Peyton.

Ad Age: What lasting lessons did Nationwide learn after the controversial "Dead Boy" Super Bowl spot of 2015, and will the brand return to the game next year?

Mr. Williams: We make those types of decisions on an ongoing basis. The "Make Safe Happen" effort and general cause efforts around child safety remain critical for us. For over 60 years we've been working through vehicles to accelerate and enhance childhood safety in the home.

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