Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR1 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR
The competition is made tougher by the fact that auto insurance is "a low-interest category." He expands, "People do not interrupt their TV viewing and jump up from their couch to get a quote after seeing an auto insurance TV ad."
That is why, Howard contends, a combination of branding and DR is an absolute necessity. "It's critical to build brand awareness so that when people are in the market for auto insurance, we're in their small consideration set," he says. "Although there are more than 400 companies selling auto insurance in the U.S., people shop only three or four companies to get auto insurance quotes. Being in the top three for our online target is crucial to our business."
Howard calls Esurance a "challenger brand," meaning a newer brand that is fighting to gain market share. "As a challenger brand, we've achieved success by positioning ourselves with consumers as innovative and fun while focusing messaging on our affordability, convenience, and reliability," he says.
Esurance has also used some unusual marketing ploys to gain consumer confidence — and dollars. This includes promoting the company's extensive environmental marketing efforts.
"Esurance was the first auto insurer to use national television to advocate for our environment," Howard contends. "Our award-winning environmental ads advocate things like carpooling to reduce your carbon footprint. Being good stewards of our environment is one of the core values of our company."
Such creativity is not surprising from a company that created its animated icon, Erin Esurance, in an eight-week period before her TV debut in 2004. Erin has recently been starring in her latest TV campaign, entitled "Operation Savings."
"The campaign really focuses on the savings available by using Esurance," Howard says. "The campaign has been in heavy TV rotation on a national level. We've also capitalized on opportunities in local markets to run TV and local radio. And, we're also utilizing the same messaging online."
While the campaign has been a success, the DRTV market has been a challenge in 2009 thus far. "There's little consistency in the DRTV market right now," he says. "We see weeks of great clearance, followed by a period of lower clearance, when general advertisers pick up scatter buys at CPMs that are low for general but higher than DR rates."
Howard thinks that the slow upfront season means that the scatter market may continue to be infested by general advertisers. "There are some concerns that general advertiser dollars could go further and take up more inventory in the next year," he says. "We are planning ahead as best we can for 2010 right now. Our agency was in the middle of the upfront break and is working in the scatter now. That's why it's so crucial to have agency partners we can trust to negotiate. We rely on them to make deals happen."
Partners Grasp Esurance's Needs
Those agency and vendor partnerships are more limited at Esurance than at other major marketers. "Nearly all of our direct marketing efforts are handled in-house, including media planning, local media buying, and online planning and buying," Howard says.
However, Esurance does work closely with New York agency MPG and its DRTV partner, Media Contacts Direct, a division of Lockard & Wechsler, on its national television and print campaigns.