TV advertising is giving Direct Line, the UK insurance brand (best known for its car and home insurance services) an edge over rivals who do not use the medium, according to Mark Evans, Marketing Director at the company. He says its TV investment has been a critical part of the strong growth Direct Line achieved in 2016 and 2017, which followed a period in the doldrums.
Direct Line is a regular on UK television with its ads featuring actor Harvey Keitel, who reprises his role as Winston Wolfe, the unflappable fixer who clears up ‘problems’ (like a decapitated body in a car) left by villains in the film Pulp Fiction. While other insurance brands in the Direct Line Group (namely Privilege and Churchill) appear on price comparison websites, Direct Line does not – and TV helps ensure consumers seek its services directly.
Evans said the cost of acquiring a customer is lower for Direct Line than it would be using a comparison website, given the commissions there. “If we paid those, there would be no money left for advertising,” he revealed. Thus Direct Line is a good example of a brand that has put distinctive character, wide reach and mass awareness near the top of its agenda and is reaping the rewards.
A few years ago, Direct Line went back to basics with its marketing, re-established its core purpose as a service and reappraised its media channels. There was a sharp focus on econometrics, using the internal marketing team with help from Ebiquity, the data analytics firm that gives independent and evidence-based insights about the effectiveness and ROI of different media. The most dramatic result was that Direct Line stopped using digital display advertising, having worked out that it achieved nothing for the company.
Speaking at ‘The Future of Brands’ conference in London last week, and discussing P&G’s more recent decision to scale back its digital advertising, partly because of concerns about its effectiveness, Evans suggested the marketing industry had “become fixated on digital media and forgot that the more things change, the more they stay the same.” He added: “The world has been away with the digital fairies for the last five years.” His advice was to make sure you have the right effectiveness testing regime in place to ensure your media is definitely working.
Evans revealed that his CEO left the marketing department to worry about effectiveness but when The Times and Financial Times newspapers ran their stories about the brand safety scandal in the UK, the chief executive wanted to know: ‘Are we okay?’. Direct Line was already using OpenSlate (which has data about content quality, context, brand safety and audience alignment on YouTube) to white-list inventory on YouTube. This was a telling insight, confirming that brand safety is a board-level issue.