State Farm Strikes Back at Rivals

DDB's Effort for Insurer to Combat Plague of Geckos, Cavemen, Ducks

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CHICAGO ( -- The last campaign from DDB, Chicago, creative chief Paul Tilley is for State Farm, and it attempts to hold off big-spending, hard-charging competitors by co-opting many of the arguments they've used to pressure the No. 1 property/casualty insurer.

Breaking this weekend, the campaign -- titled "Intersections" -- riffs off the Illinois-based insurer's long-held slogan ("Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there") in new ways, and from multiple perspectives.

One spot shows a young consumer, caught at the intersection of "an 8 percent mortgage and a 3 percent raise," but still saving money on insurance, a pricing nod more typical of Progressive or Nationwide. Another shows a father -- his daughter driving spastically behind him -- saying he's at the place of "Daddy, I can't wait to get my license meets I can't believe my baby's driving" -- a reference to adjusting coverage to fit life changes, which closely echoes Travelers' recent "Insurance. In Sync" effort.

A third scene shows an agent on the scene of a fender bender, a service-related claim more typical of State Farm's past efforts.

Red dot marks the spot
As in the other two, the agent declares, "I'm there." In every case, the protagonist is standing on a red dot similar to a "You are here" marker on a map, which State Farm likely hopes will become as ubiquitous as the geckos, cavemen and ducks at the centerpiece of other campaigns in the increasingly free-spending category.

State Farm's VP-advertising, Mark Gibson, said the apparent similarities to the pitches of its deep-pocketed challengers was a result of the insurer's consumer research, not any attempt to mimic competitors. "What our competitors do is not a concern," he said. "This is a big brand that can go very broad or very deep. ... We're really putting a bow on it."

State Farm managed to keep its market-leading share of premiums written stable at 9.8% in 2007, virtually unchanged from the prior year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. But holding share has been tough for its bottom line, as the insurer has been forced to cut prices. Net income rose 2.6%, to $5.4 billion, in 2007, but only because the company declined to pay a companywide dividend. Its underwriting profit actually fell 79%.

State Farm spent $319 million on measured media last year according to TNS Media Intelligence, less than Geico ($559 million), Allstate ($370 million) and Progressive ($371 million).

Becoming more visible
Mr. Gibson wouldn't say if the new campaign would see more spending, but he did say that the brand would be more visible than in the past, including more-aggressive digital and guerilla marketing. The push will kick off this weekend with home-page takeovers of major web portals such as Google, Yahoo and MSN, as well as a television presence on "selection Sunday" for the NCAA basketball tournament.

It will also employ mobile billboards, street teams and what Mr. Gibson described as "unexpected" executions in venues like shopping malls and retailers throughout the country, as well as a large presence at several NCAA tournament sites later this month. All of these will emphasize the "I'm there" platform, Mr. Gibson said.

The campaign will be of particular interest in the advertising community because it represents the last project for Mr. Tilley, who committed suicide last month. Mr. Tilley spent his last day on the job in New Orleans helping wrap up the campaign.

Mr. Gibson said Mr. Tilley played a key role in the campaign's development, and seemed pleased with the final product.
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