Maintaining Cats And Dogs

Insurance can be a difficult category to advertise in. The technical details of policies are dry and obtuse, it’s not a sector renowned for innovation, and emotionally it brings to mind fear and bad things happening.

So insurance ads have tended to rely on hitting notes of comfort, safety and security – sensible, but not often memorable.

Some brands have managed to stand out. In the US, Allstate’s long-running “Mayhem” Fluent Device brought dramatic flair and dark humour to the category. In the UK, lovable nodding dog Churchill has been a reliable mascot for the eponymous car insurance brand.

If there’s one sector which does allow for more imaginative and emotional treatments, though, it’s Pet Insurance. Animals in ads have become a cliche for a reason – they work. People respond emotionally to pet stories. So how do insurers take advantage of this gilt-edged opportunity?

Using Ad Ratings data, we took a look at four campaigns from three suppliers in the UK pet market – how emotionally effective they were and how much they spent.

The campaigns – from Allianz-owned Petplan, specialist UK supplier Animal Friends, and insurance tech start-up Bought By Many – ran over the last 18 months and represent £3.2m of spend (according to Ebiquity). They also offer four quite different ways of approaching the sector.

The highest-scoring campaign belonged to Petplan, their excellent “My Job” execution which ran until Spring 2017 and accounted for £280k spend in the 2017-2018 period. The main ad here managed a really strong 5-Star score – one of the best TV ads we’ve seen in the UK Ad Ratings data.

It’s a compilation of adorable pet clips with amusing captions ending with a light message – “Your job is to get the best pet insurance”. The high score makes sense – the best asset a pet insurance company can have is the pets themselves.

In Spring 2017, Petplan changed their execution, pivoting to the campaign “#pethood”, which involves candid interviews with pet owners talking about their feelings for their pets.

These kind of “vox pop” style adverts are popular with brands – they create an authentic feel and allow brand messaging to sneak in via the interview format. But emotionally they often leave audiences cold, and sadly Petplan is no exception.

 

The four ads we tested average only 2.4 stars – not bad compared to the UK’s ads as a whole, and with a good 3-Star execution in the mix. But a step down from the warmth of the “My Job” work.

Petplan isn’t the only player in the market, though. Among its smaller competitors is independent pet specialist Animal Friends Insurance, whose selling point is that it makes regular donations to animal charities.

Animal Friends has run a Fluent Device campaign since 2012, starring Girlie and Cracker, an animate dog and cat created by the Happy Hour agency. In 2017-2018 the cast of stop-motion animals expanded in a series of new ads, which scored a very respectable 3.0 Star average. The top scorer, “Oodles Of Poodles”, boosts happiness with a series of comical rhymes.

At System1 we regularly preach the benefits of Fluent Device advertising as a way to build brand without sacrificing emotion. Animal Friends credit their initial shift to peak-time TV with very rapid growth between 2012 and 2015, and will be looking to this new cast of characters to repeat that success.

As well as being the strongest current campaign in the market, they also have the highest spend – around £2million according to Ebiquity, way above the £800,000 Petplan have invested in their latest campaign.

Finally we have Bought By Many, a niche start up from the expanding world of insurance tech – its aim is to open access for insurance to niche customers (crocodile or snake owners, for instance) by bringing them together to get better deals.

 

Bought By Many spend around £90k on TV advertising in early summer 2017, with a series of ads using the long-serving kids’ TV puppet Sweep. Low-budget and vaguely chaotic and surreal, these ads didn’t strike much of an emotional chord, ending up with a 2.1-Star average, barely above the line where no growth would be expected.

So the Pet Insurance communications landscape shows four very different kinds of campaign – a pet-focused one; an owner-focused one; a Fluent Device; and a quirkier approach. The pet-focused one performed best, which is to be expected. But the results for Animal Friends also show how useful a long-running Fluent Device can be in keeping emotion high.

Ad Ratings data – looking at every ad that airs in a category – makes these kind of holistic sector spotlights possible. For more information, sign up here.

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