Super Bowl

American Family Insurance Opts for Flexibility, Cost-Savings of Regional Super Bowl Ad Buy

Insurer Plans To Run Different Versions of Ad, Depending on the Market

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American Family Insurance will make its third Super Bowl appearance this year with a 30-second regional ad buy. The Wisconsin-based insurer considered making its first national buy on America's largest advertising stage but opted to air its ad locally because of the flexibility and cost-savings.

While exploring options for the big game, the company considered taking a broad approach that would have unifed the 14 brands that make up the American Family Insurance group at the national level. The company includes brands like General, Homesite and AssureStart, which are marketed separately from American Family Insurance.

"There was some thought about whether or not we should … take a more holistic approach to our larger brand strategy," said Telisa Yancy, VP-marketing for American Family Insurance.

Ultimately, the company decided against it, scrapping discussion of a national ad buy in favor of pushing American Family regionally. It is, of course, cheaper to run local ads. And if you're a regional marketer, like American Family which operates in 19 states, the cost-savings can make a big difference -- especially considering that a national 30-second ad in this year's game costs about $4.5 million.

The Super Bowl spot will run in 70 markets, or one-third of the country, including Seattle, Wash., Portland, Ore., Chicago, Ill., Atlanta, Ga., and parts of the Midwest. With one-third of the exposure, it stands to reason that the ad will cost about one-third of the price. Ms. Yancy declined to comment on the budget for the campaign.

American Family Insurance spent $151 million on U.S. measured media in 2013, according to Kantar Media.

Staying local also allows the company to tailor its media buy to each market, said Ms. Yancy. The company will air a 60-second version of the spot in some markets to give customers a deeper look at the brand. In others, where people are already familiar with the company, it will push a shorter spot.

The downside is that regional buys give marketers less control over when the spot appears in the game. "That's the one hold back," said Ms. Yancy. American Family's appearance during the game will vary by market with at least one placement at the end of the game and others in the first and third quarters.

The spot will expand on the campaign that American Family ran last year, which aimed to encourage people to follow their dreams. The approach differs from some others in the hyper-competitive insurance category, like Geico and Progressive, which are price-driven and feature humorous spokescharacters.

Ms. Yancy declined to share details about this year's creative. Last year, the company locked down Russell Wilson for the Super Bowl spot months ahead of the game, which paid off when the quarterback led the Seahawks to its first championship victory.

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That ad had 58 million impressions from the game, which the company aims to surpass this year. "We're looking for the opportunity to engage with consumers beyond the time that the spots actually run," said Ms. Yancy. The game will be a launch pad to re-energize the brand in the coming months, she added.

The campaign is the first out of American Family Insurance's new agency of record, BBDO New York.