Esurance taps Dennis Quaid for a very self-aware brand refresh

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Nearly two decades into its existence, Esurance is hitting the refresh button with a new brand positioning and tagline designed to attract Millennial and Gen X consumers. The campaign, hitting airwaves Wednesday, stars actor Dennis Quaid as the Allstate-owned brand's new spokesperson.

"If we are going to continue to be a disruptor, challenger brand in the industry, we have to address the pains of the industry as a whole," says Mark Pitchford, an Esurance veteran who was promoted to chief sales and marketing officer last year. He says Esurance spent a year researching consumers' insurance industry gripes, like the category's traditionally high costs, opaqueness and confusing coverage. After streamlining its services, Esurance is now aiming to convey simplicity with the new tagline, "Esurance: Surprisingly Painless."

"The ads are as simple and transparent as our insurance," says Nancy Abraham, VP of integrated marketing communications.

When Esurance was founded 19 years ago as an insurer built on the digital experience, it was considered an innovator. But now, a host of insurance startups, such as Lemonade and Root, are serving up stiff competition—and scoring venture capital funding.

In the new 60-second anthem TV spot, Quaid explains that he's in a commercial about insurance. "Let's be honest—nobody likes dealing with insurance, which is why Esurance hired me, Dennis Quaid, as their spokesperson because, apparently, I'm highly likeable," he says. He eventually cues up some advertising tropes like overdramatic music, nearly bites into a prop apple and walks off into a sunset.

Esurance previously worked with John Krasinski of "The Office" fame for about six years; Krasinski was primarily featured in voiceovers for the brand and also appeared in one Super Bowl spot four years ago. The insurance brand had used the tagline "Insurance for the modern world."

Abraham notes that Quaid—who is indeed pretty likeable in the spot—has never been in a commercial before. "We wanted an actor of the highest caliber who is known for more dramatic roles," she says, "but his earnestness and his dryness ends up being unexpectedly funny."

The spot will air in a 30-second cut as well. The campaign includes digital and social supplements as well as a redesigned website. San Francisco-based Esurance worked on the effort with Publicis' Leo Burnett, along with SapientRazorfish, Starcom and MSL. The insurer has used Leo Burnett since 2011.

While Pitchford declined to specify the budget for the refresh, he says, "You'll see us pump up the volume and make sure we deliver." Last year, Esurance spent $39.5 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media. The brand grew net written premiums—income from policies after reinsurance costs—by 13 percent in the second quarter, compared with the quarter a year earlier, according to Allstate financial documents.

Next, Ad Age's biggest event of the year, has added new speakers including Daniel Cherry, chief marketing officer at Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues; Pras Michél, the Fugees co-founder now creating Blacture; Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels, the network of women investors; Meiling Tan, head of marketing at Waymo; Dara Treseder, chief marketing officer at GE Ventures; and Jen Wong, the chief operating officer at Reddit. They join a Next lineup already stacked with CEOs, investors, founders, researchers and marketers, coming together Nov. 13 and 14 in New York to describe the near future in everything from AI to food. Aug. 15 is the last day for early-bird tickets; regular pricing begins Aug. 16.

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