Travelers Insurance: We Didn't Spend Enough

Goaded by Gecko, Duck, Insurer Goes from B-to-B Advertiser to $100 Million Blitz

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After more than a decade of shunning consumer advertising while rivals splurged, the Travelers insurance company is preparing an estimated $100 million national ad push aimed at reasserting its once-potent brand.

The effort, from Fallon, Minneapolis, features 60-second TV spots, online-gaming and print, and is a huge turnabout for a marketer that had until now spent in the low seven-figure range on business-to-business ads.

"We felt that the level of awareness for the brand and the clarity of who we are have been diminished by the lack of investment," a Travelers spokesman said. "We're going to have a higher profile going forward."

The ads come at the end of a five-year stretch when direct-to-consumer insurers such as Geico and Progressive have gained market share by deluging consumers with spots from an industry that traditionally was ad-averse. Since 2001, ad spending by the 50 largest insurers nearly doubled, to $2.48 billion from $1.28 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

That surge left indirect-sales shops such as Travelers and Hartford, which sell through independent agents, with a conundrum. "Personal-line insurance became an ad-driven business, but they don't sell to consumers, they sell to agents," said Brian P. Sullivan, editor of Risk Information, an industry newsletter. "It's a pickle. ... Their answer seems to be to drive the brand so that the consumer is responsive when the agent suggests it."

Travelers, which ranked No. 11 in personal auto insurance and No. 5 in homeowners insurance during 2004, the most recent year for which data was available, is poised to rank within the top 10 in insurance ad spending. It's budget-estimated to be between $75 million and $100 million-brings it to within range of other national brands such as AIG, Nationwide and Aflac, but still far less than Geico ($403 million), State Farm ($306 million), Allstate ($286 million), Progressive ($252 million) and Blue Cross Blue Shield ($108 million).

Fallon constructed a campaign dubbed "Insurance, In Synch," which is supposed to emphasize the need for consumers to adjust their coverage as their risks evolve.

The 60-second TV spots feature characters who have spent their lives training for an event, only to be foiled by a comical risk they didn't see coming. (In one, a boxer is knocked unconscious by a falling microphone moments before his title fight.)

"There's no doubt [insurance advertising] is a crowded field right now," said Todd Riddle, group creative director at Fallon. "So you've got to be entertaining and reward people for watching."

The campaign also includes 17 print ads in national, local and trade publications, and an Internet game that will allow consumers to act out the widely held fantasy of being an insurance claim adjustor, identifying risks in various surroundings.

But while the work wars with Geico's gecko, Aflac's duck, Allstate's good hands and State Farm's good neighbor, it will not feature Travelers' red umbrella. The company lost the 46-year-old icon during its 2002 spin-off by Citigroup, which retained the rights to the logo. Its been using a shield logo since its 2004 merger with the St. Paul Cos., which formed parent St. Paul Travelers Cos.

"If you ask me, they got absolutely hosed out of it by Citigroup," said Mr. Sullivan.
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