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Financial Services

Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR

1 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response

Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR


i2As part of that effort, Howard works hand-in-hand with Tolithia Kornweibel, his counterpart who manages Esurance's click-through direct marketing channels of non-branded search, affiliate partnerships and display advertising. "We work very closely together to manage all of the company's direct response marketing efforts," Howard says. "We are in constant contact, evaluating all direct programs, making adjustments in real time to move funds into whatever media element is working best at that time."

Being able to analyze various types of campaigns and move quickly to maximize is something that comes naturally to Howard, who spent seven years each in the in-house media groups at Anheuser-Busch and Turner Broadcasting prior to joining the Esurance team. "During my career, in addition to media planning, I've had the opportunity to buy nearly every offline media type directly — from television to singing pizza boxes," he says. "My years at Esurance have rounded out my skills in online marketing. Understanding the intricacies of individual media elements has enabled me to take a comprehensive yet realistic approach to developing marketing plans."

He looks back to his time with Anheuser-Busch in the 1990s for a lesson that taught him how to combine brand marketing with DR. "I was liaison to local distributors for their advertising needs," Howard recalls. "It was important to develop a good balance of brand-building with an 'on-the-street' understanding of what it takes to close the sale. This balance is critical for success in an organization like Esurance."

More recently, with Turner, Howard says, "I managed tune-in and brand media for TNT and Turner Sports. While I didn't categorize it as such at the time, tune-in advertising for television programming was actually my first work in direct response. It involved building awareness for a program, creating interest, and getting people to the "point of sale" — in this case, tuning in to the network at a specific time on a specific day."

He also points to his Turner experience for helping him to consider how "paid media deals can drive 'free' word-of-mouth advertising when you create buzz around a new show." This came in handy when Esurance recently teamed with Paramount Pictures to elevate its brand through a promotional partnership for the summer blockbuster Star Trek.

"Our association with the film generated positive buzz throughout social networks. This buzz builds brand awareness and increases brand likeability, which in turn leads to Esurance being top-of-mind the next time those fans shop for auto insurance," says Howard

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Expanding the boundaries of DR has worked well for Esurance. Testing and re-testing has become a way of life for Howard and the marketing group, as they seek the right mix. "We test new opportunities and expand upon those that deliver our allowable acquisition costs," he says. "Our current DR activities include television, radio, search engine marketing, E-mail remarketing, and a variety of online media such as streaming radio, online video, and display advertising. At times, we take advantage of opportunistic deals on print and out-of-home. Esurance also [maintains] relationships with a large group of online affiliate partners."

This breadth of advertising is crucial in such a competitive space, although Howard contends TV is consistently the highest spend element for the company. "The insurance industry is one of the largest advertising categories in the United States, driven primarily by auto insurance advertising," he says. "The major auto insurers spent more than $4.3 billion on advertising in 2008, nearly double the amount spent just four years ago."

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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