AS RIVALS PROPEL SPENDING, CHUBB TESTS CAMPAIGN: ADS RUNNING IN FLORIDA TOUT INSURANCE PLAN FOR PRICEY CARS

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Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., a 117-year-old insurer, is feeling the pressure to raise its consumer profile as competitors up the ante by spending more on advertising.

The insurance company has launched a test of a TV, print and radio campaign in Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. It will decide next spring whether to take the advertising national.

The Florida test includes a humorous series of ads from Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky, New York, which plug Chubb's upgraded coverage policy for higher-priced cars, called Auto Preference.

TOY CARS IN ADS

The ads show toy cars zooming around a house before meeting painful deaths -- including one being crushed by a fuzzy pink slipper. Voice-over explains the need for a better auto policy with pre-set replacement value for total loss or a choice of mechanics for repairs.

Spots are all tagged "The most comprehensive policy available."

The campaign is meant to correct Chubb's low consumer awareness against rivals with large TV efforts, such as Geico, Progressive Insurance and State Farm Insurance Cos., said Bob O'Leary, account director on Chubb at Shepardson.

The insurance sector overall has boosted marketing efforts in recent years as competition continues to intensify. Insurers spent $1.3 billion on advertising in 1998, a 50% rise from 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

SPONSORSHIP ON PBS SHOW

Until now, Chubb's only TV effort was an ongoing sponsorship of the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow." According to CMR, Chubb spent $2.6 million in 1998 and $1.1 million during the first half of 1999 -- altogether less than Progressive spent just on Super Bowl ads this year.

Palm Beach was chosen for the test because the target audience for Auto Preference is affluent households with high-priced cars, Mr. O'Leary said. Chubb will decide in April whether to extend the test to other markets or roll it out nationwide, he said.

Chubb, which started insuring ships in New York's seaport in 1882, is one of the largest issuers of property and casualty policies in the U.S., with $2.8 billion

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