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December 2, 2009updated 13 Apr 2017 8:55am

US insurers go on the offensive

Prudential Financial joined the reassurance business recently, launching a major advertising campaign highlighting the company's solutions for businesses facing a variety of challenges in the post-financial crisis environment The multimillion-dollar advertising campaign centres around Prudential answering an SOS call from corporations looking for a partner with the financial strength and solutions for their retirement plans, asset management and group life insurance needs.

By Charles Davis

Security, stability and pedigree dominate the marketing messages of US life insurers these days, as providers try to reassure jittery customers.

Prudential Financial joined the reassurance business recently, launching a major advertising campaign highlighting the company’s solutions for businesses facing a variety of challenges in the post-financial crisis environment. The multimillion-dollar advertising campaign centres around Prudential answering an ‘SOS’ call from corporations looking for a partner with the financial strength and solutions for their retirement plans, asset management and group life insurance needs.

“Companies are looking for help to address the unprecedented challenges they face as a result of the financial crisis, the continuing difficult economic environment and long-term business trends,” Bernard Winograd, Prudential Financial’s COO for US Businesses, told LII.

“This campaign focuses on the solutions Prudential is uniquely positioned to provide to help companies address the challenges and risks they face.”

The Morse code SOS-themed campaign was launched on 18 October with a full-page advertisement in The New York Times. The print advertisements use a graphic representation of SOS in Morse code in front of business leaders looking for help.

“Who can help rescue our 401(k) plans?,” “Who can steer us through uncertain markets?,” and “Who can save us from the risks of disability?,” the advertisements ask. The response: “Who? Pru.”

National television

National television ads began on 15 October. One of the ads depicts skyscrapers sending out the Morse code signal for SOS with flashing window lights. The campaign will also include internet advertising, airport dioramas, elevator advertisements and Prudential’s electronic billboard at Times Square, New York. The advertisements build on the company’s “Who? Pru” advertising campaign, which has been running throughout the year across a wide range of media platforms.

“Prudential is an ideal partner for many companies right now because of the unique perspective we offer, combined with our proven strength and stability,” said Tom Burke, vice-president of advertising at Prudential, in a statement.

“Our new campaign is a reflection of what is already happening in the market. Companies are seeking us out, looking to our institutional businesses for new solutions.”

The spots will also be seen on various sports programming, including National Football League regular- and post-season games on NBC, CBS and ESPN, college football and basketball ABC and CBS, PGA and LPGA on television channels.

Tour events, NBC’s figure skating programmes and local sponsorships with the New Jersey Devils ice hockey team, Rutgers football and basketball and Seton Hall basketball.

The media buy also includes cable networks such as Bloomberg, Fox Business News, CNBC, CNN, Headline News, The History Channel and HGTV.

Print advertising will continue running in national newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Financial Times and Investor’s Business Daily regularly until the third week of December. These placements will continue in January, Prudential Financial said.

The campaign will be running in magazines such as Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek and The Economist, and will have a heavy presence in key trade publications, including Pensions & Investments, CFO, Institutional Investor, PlanSponsor/PlanAdviser, HR Executive and Bloomberg Markets.

Guardian Life joins in

Prudential is not alone in seeking to reassure wary investors of the need for life insurance coverage in troubled times. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America also recently launched a new awareness campaign designed to highlight the important role life insurance should play in a total financial strategy.

Anchored by a new website, the campaign, “Life Insurance as an Asset Class,” considers life insurance far beyond its traditional – and essential – function to protect the financial security of loved ones in the event of death.

“Thanks to industry efforts such as Life Insurance Awareness Month, Americans are well aware of the importance of the death benefit,” Maria Umbach, Guardian’s vice-president and chief marketing officer for individual products distribution, explained to LII.

“Our intention is to promote the ‘uncommon knowledge’ that life insurance – participating whole life, in particular – also needs to be part of the discussion every time one’s portfolio is considered for lifetime uses.

“The recent stock market collapse was devastating to so many individual holdings because it undercut both equities and bonds,” Umbach added.

“People who thought their portfolios were adequately diversified across stocks, bonds and traditional fixed assets were unprepared for the impact to their portfolios.

“In contrast, whole life was one of the few financial assets that did not lose value; indeed, many policyholders found that it was the only statement they looked forward to opening over the past year.”

Signs of recovery

The moves by Prudential and The Guardian come as signs of life emanate from the life market. New York Life reported recently that its life insurance sales have increased 8 percent through September over 2008, the best nine-month start to a year on record for the company.

For the most part, this growth is being driven by increased sales of both permanent insurance and term products, New York Life said.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance said that whole life insurance premium is up 9 percent and policy count is up 21 percent since the beginning of the year.

And Lincoln Financial Group – another insurer that has been marketing itself as a staid alternative to equity investments – said that MoneyGuard, its linked-benefit universal life insurance policy with a long-term care rider, and term life insurance sales increased over 60 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, demonstrating the strength of the diversified product portfolio.

The message might be a bit dull, but in times like these, reassuring customers seeking a refuge seems the best possible play. It is marketing safety in perilous times, and it is clearly working.

Charles Davis

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