New York Life breaks national $38 mil push

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New York Life Insurance Co. long ago outgrew its New York roots to become the fourth-largest insurance company in the U.S. This week, the company breaks its first national TV spots in four years to showcase how far beyond term-life policies the company has come.

The $38 million campaign from Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, continues the tagline "The company you keep," created by the agency in 1997. Based on the success of that effort, which rolled out to additional markets over the last two years, New York Life is increasing the media budget by $8 million this year, said Christopher Sorgie, assistant VP-advertising.

The latest effort builds on the 1997 campaign -- which communicated core values such as the company's humanity and strength -- but will give those values a future spin, said Carolyn Martin Buscarino, senior VP-corporate communications. It's a cinematic sweep of historical events showing how the company evolved during the 20th century and how that has positioned the company for the future.

"Our research shows [the earlier campaign] resonated [with consumers], but research showed people wondered how old-fashion values relate today," she said. The company now has $90 billion in assets, including insurance, mutual funds and asset management accounts for individuals and institutions.

The 150-year-old insurance company was scheduled to break its 60-second spot on the Academy Awards broadcast March 26. Another three :30s will break over the eight weeks following the awards show. The company will also consider extending the campaign to print and online media later this year, and plans to redesign its Web site (, Mr. Sorgie said.

The effort also includes sponsorships and promotions.


New York Life signed a sponsorship agreement with Major League Soccer to be the league's exclusive financial services sponsor through the 2003 season. That agreement includes designation of New York Life as "official life insurance company" for the league and its 12 teams; stadium signage; ads on the league's official publications; and sponsorship of a series of local youth contests nationwide, called "The New York Life Dribble, Pass & Shoot."

Insurance companies became more active marketers in the late 1990s in order to get a larger slice of the assets of aging baby boomers and to compete in a diversified financial services marketplace. Many of New York Life's competitors -- including Allstate Corp., American Family Life Assurance Co., Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. and Nationwide -- have broken new campaigns in recent months.

New York Life's 1997 campaign broke in five spot markets and expanded in 1998 and '99.

In addition to the Oscars spot, New York Life this year also sponsored an award forecasting contest on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' official award Web site (

The Oscar broadcast is a good vehicle, in spite of the $1.3 million price tag for every 30-second spot, Mr. Sorgie said. Not only do the Oscars offer a a good showcase for the cinematic values of the new commercial, the show delivers a large, high-quality audience, he said.

"The out-of-pocket expense is considerable . . . [but] it's a great environment to break our advertising."

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