Campaign shift underway: Allstate hires new marketing chief

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Allstate Corp. brought in a new chief marketing officer last week, and observers are wondering how that will affect its relationship with Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Co.

Joseph V. Tripodi, a former VP-global marketing at MasterCard International and most recently chief marketing officer, Bank of New York, will join Allstate on Nov. 3. Until then, he referred all calls to Allstate.

Executives at the insurer were said to be unhappy with the latest Burnett effort, a humorous campaign meant to demystify insurance for neophytes, according to executives close to the company.

Executives close to both Burnett and Allstate said some at the insurer felt the latest campaign dumbed down their business and alienated its agents. Key among the disaffected was Thomas Wilson, president of Allstate Protection, the insurer's largest division. At the time of Mr. Tripodi's appointment, Mr. Wilson told the Chicago Tribune the current campaign was not working and will be replaced.

An Allstate spokesman confirmed the company was not happy with the latest campaign and a new one was in development at Burnett. He said the insurer was not seeking a new agency.

The spots, which continue Allstate's venerable "Good Hands" theme, show only a tabletop and the hands of an unseen narrator who uses props such as a stapler and a Rice Krispies treat to illustrate how auto insurance works. A separate print campaign seeks to compete with the price pitch of rivals such as Geico by focusing on how Allstate could lower premiums.

Allstate spent $122 million in advertising in 2002 and $70 million in January through July of 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The company has sharply increased its advertising spending in the last year, up 135% in 2002 (AA, June 23).

"We've had no indication of a review and we have no reason to believe there is one," said Nina Abnee, exec VP-ad account director, Burnett, adding the agency has a good relationship with Allstate, a client since 1957.

"We're partners. It was mutually agreed we should have a new campaign," Ms. Abnee said. "This new campaign has the support of Tom Wilson and the management at Allstate," she said. She would not give any details on the campaign, but said it will continue the "Good hands" theme.

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