Farmers Insurance Seeks Social-Media Agency of Record

Brand Agency RPA Participating in Review

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Farmers Insurance is searching for a social-media agency of record, Director of Social Media Ryon Harms told Ad Age .

The review comes as Farmers aims to maintain its momentum in the space, Mr. Harms added. It also follows recent executive shifts. Michael Linton joined as CMO in October 2011, and Jeff Dailey was promoted to CEO in January.

"Before [the changes] we had a lot of support, but there was still a learning curve," said Mr. Harms. "Now the executive team is even more supportive and open to it."

As part of an objective to compete with high-profile brands in the social space -- Mr. Harms listed names like Coca-Cola and Starbucks -- he sent the RFP to 10 firms recommended by social-media directors of large brands. The list includes pure-play social-media shops as well as large PR and ad firms with robust social departments. It's understood that Farmers' brand agency RPA is participating in the review.

"I'm trying to build things out to scale so we can benefit all of our business units," said Mr. Harms. "We have a strategy and know what we're trying to achieve, but what we don't have is the creative minds. We need someone to help us on the creative execution of strategy."

Rather than list a budget in the RFP, Farmers plans to wait and "see what they come back to us with," Mr. Harms said. The budget is a relatively small portion of the overall marketing spend, he said, but the winning agency should find ways to use the money the company is already spending by supporting existing partnerships and programs. Submissions are due May 1. Soon after, three front-runners will compete on a creative project, and a decision is expected in early June.

Mr. Harms said that when he joined Farmers in late 2010, the company hadn't anticipated it would also need external social support. "Over the last year, we've had some pretty solid success in the social space," he said. "When all that awareness starts beating a social drum, the amount of demand coming to me is more than I can handle. It grew to be bigger than I am."

One of Farmers' social successes was a Guinness World Record for getting the most likes on a Facebook page -- 2,047,058 -- in 24 hours. Another effort involved placing a hashtag on the back of Kasey Kahne's racecar -- the Nascar star was also a Farmers spokesman. More generally, the company has been growing its agent presence online, particularly on Facebook, and would like to continue to build on that following, Mr. Harms said.

Still, Mr. Harms said, Farmers' added investment in social doesn't mean that it's looking to go outside of its comfort zone as a challenger brand. "We don't want to be No. 1 in insurance," he added. "We want our brand seen as killing it in social across all brands."

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