Celebrities meet insurance: Is insurance really that cool?

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19 January 2009
Catherine Stagg-Macey

It is January when Christmas parties are over, belts a little tighter (metaphorical and physical) and you’re running out of recipes for the re-use of Turkey. Here in the UK, the television schedule can often be relied upon to cheer you up with festive specials of your favourite show (and who can forget the hypnotic draw of the Queen’s speech). What one doesn’t expect is to be entertained by adverts for insurance.

I will make a confession to having a little soft spot for the mascots of UK insurance television ads with the notable exception of the talking bulldog who makes me channel swap with alacrity. The animated phone (who now has a cute little friend when selling pet insurance) and the dapper little blue mouse who has unlimited energy and enthusiasm all bring a smile to my face. Do they make me buy insurance? Well, I’ll leave that to the marketers to debate but I will concede that these cute little tykes do help keep the brand on top of mind at renewal.

Not to be out-done by the compelling seasonal schedules of BBC, or perhaps because of these schedules, a handful of the top insurers have splashed out on celebrity based ads. Aviva has outdone themselves and have several big names including Elle McPherson, Bruce Willis, Alice Cooper, Dame Edna, Ring Starr to support the company’s change of name (from Norwich Union to Aviva). Each celebrity poses the question as to whether they would have been successful had they not changed their name. Enough said.

Direct line, Esure have made similar investments in UK celebrities – notably Julian Barrat, Paul Merton, Michael Winner. It is the new advert from Swiftcover with an exuberant and semi-naked Iggy Pop that is the most startling to watch. Does such a pop icon really buy insurance at all, or even on line? Don’t famous people have people who do those sort’s of things? (If you have time on your hands and need a giggle in the dark months of January, check out Iggy Pop dancing to entice you to buy Swiftcover - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yYnydYrZPp8.

Perhaps the choice of celebrities tells us more about the target buyers than the insurance product. With the exception of the Aviva advert where the celebrities could arguably have a broader generational appeal, the other celebrities would suggest the insurers are targeting the baby boomer rather than the generation X’er. This may be a sensible marketing move betting on the fact that the mid-generations will continue to buy insurance in this current climate whilst the generation X and Y’s, who look to be most severely hit by the redundancies, will not be active buyers. Was this prescience on the part of marketing or another pandering to the celebrity culture that envelops us.

But back to the question of insurance and the coolness factor. When the Beckham’s, Paris Hilton, Gordon Ramsey or Prince Harry are enticed to smile and dance for a UK insurance brand, will that surely be the time to declare insurance as the ultimately cool product. Until then, and certainly for 2009, we will have to comfort ourselves with the dulcet tones of middle-aged UK celebrities doing their best to make insurance cool.

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Blogs
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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America