The Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIABA) have unveiled their national ad campaign for Trusted ChoiceSM, with television commercials appearing on the nation’s prominent cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, FOX NewsChannel and CNBC.
The national advertising campaign kicked off Feb. 3, and will run for approximately six weeks, ending on March 16. Three different commercials will air: one featuring automobile insurance, one for homeowners insurance, and another for business insurance. The target audience for the campaign is 35 years and older business professionals, Larry Acord, vice president of consumer marketing at IIABA, explained. Over 122 ads will be shown, appearing alongside shows such as CNN Headline News, Larry King, Hardball with Chris Matthews and the O’Reilly Factor.
The campaign is being funded by the fees agents and companies pay to IIABA for their involvement in the Trusted ChoiceSM program. The ads were designed by Alexandria, Va.-based Williams Whittle Associates. “The real power in this is that it’s combined with independent agents doing their own ads and using the Trusted ChoiceSM logo in additional cable and print advertising,” Acord said. “That will be a multiplicative effect if the consumer is seeing it on the national programs and also on other cable shows within their communities.”
All of the televised ads will direct consumers to the Trusted ChoiceSM Web site. Acord expects Web site traffic to increase directly as a result of the ads. “The Web site is really the face to the consumer,” Acord said. “What we are doing is trying to develop a compelling destination for consumers to be educated about insurance.
“What we’ll be measuring later on is the actual movement and business retained by independent agents,” Acord said. “It’s very easy to measure the amount of premium volume that independent agents do vs. direct vs. captive, so over time we would expect to see that the independent agent be more successful as a result.
“We need to keep in mind that this is a brand that’s been out there for a year,” Acord added. “It’s a long term investment to begin educating consumers about what independent agents offer. The advertising is only one aspect of building a brand.”
“I think independent insurance agencies have been branding themselves for a long time,” Ron Smith, owner of Rochester, Ind.-based Smith, Sawyer & Smith, said. “We’ve worked hard at that, in our own communities, and I think we all do a little bit of that in trying to project a certain image. I think that Trusted ChoiceSM dovetails with that promotion very well. I think what it gives us the opportunity to do is to have something recognizable that consumers can see on a national level when we can get the brand truly built.”
Smith explained that his agency was attracted to the program because it fosters growth and promotes the independent agent community. “We’ve always believed in the independent agency system; we’ve always been supporters of the independent agent logo,” he added.
“I think the [Pledge of Performance] is where we have really picked up on a lot of what we think about Trusted ChoiceSM,” Smith added. “We think that the pledge fits exactly what we’ve already been doing as an agency, and those are the main reasons that we decided to become involved in Trusted ChoiceSM.”
Smith said that his agency has added the Trusted ChoiceSM logo on its letterhead and in advertisements, and have also printed the Pledge of Performance. “We’re actually giving that to clients, saying this is what we are all about. I think this is one of those things that takes awhile, but we believe this has a real chance to work, and that’s why we’re supporting it.”
For Seattle-based SAFECO, Trusted ChoiceSM represents a strong belief in the independent agent system. “We’re really committed to supporting, advocating and promoting the independent agent’s way of doing business,” Bruce Allenbaugh, senior vice president of Corporate Marketing and Communications, said. Allenbaugh explained that SAFECO became involved with Trusted ChoiceSM with the help of chairman, president and CEO Mike McGavick. McGavick has been involved with Trusted ChoiceSM since its early stages. “He brought with him a real belief,” Allenbaugh added.
“From the beginning, we have been out in front of our agents, starting with a management group which included McGavick; Michael LaRocco, who heads up personal lines; Dale Lauer, who heads up our business lines; and Randy Talbot, who heads up life and investments. Those four individuals hit 22 cities in 40 working days last spring, and at every meeting, brought up Trusted ChoiceSM in front of our agents. We wanted to let them know how committed we were, but how much we wanted to encourage them to supporting the cause.”
Allenbaugh explained that the company is enjoying its own efforts to put forth the Trusted ChoiceSM logo. One thing they have done to promote the program is to issue all of the salespeople Trusted ChoiceSM pins. “We are having fun at doing this because we are such big believers of this, and it seems like we come up every month with a new and creative way to support it and get the message out,” he said. “We are so committed to it because we do realize that it’s going to be a slow, gradual and eventual build. So we have to demonstrate our commitment early on.
“My expectations from the outset are realistic,” Allenbaugh continued. “I would expect the advertising to turn into more and more agents signing up with the program, and increasing in gradual comprehension from a consumer standpoint of what the basic idea is in and around Trusted ChoiceSM. It’s going to be a slow build.”
The Trusted ChoiceSM program has been in effect since 2001 when it was introduced at the IIABA Annual InfoXchange, with it’s first official year of operation beginning in 2002. To date, it has 18 member companies and approximately 2,200 member agencies, a number that Acord expects to see increase in the coming year.
“The challenging thing is really embedding a brand in an existing culture,” Acord said. “Insurance to consumers is confusing-they are looking for an advocate for them in that process. What the Big I wanted to do was to get that message out and help educate consumers who do business with direct companies and captive companies, and to help educate them on exactly what the independent insurance agent offers the consumer.”
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