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October 27, 2010
Analyzing Advertising Strategy: Car Insurance
 
The head-to-head competition for car insurance customers is heating up, and providers are stepping up their game with increasingly flamboyant ads to get the attention of both TV viewers and Web visitors. Today, we’ll look at the top players and what they are doing to sign up more drivers, in no particular order.

Geico
 


First up is the king of bizarre commercials, Geico. Famous for a Gecko mascot and the very odd Caveman spots, Geico is plastering their numerous spokespeople, including Charlie Daniels, everywhere. When searching "car insurance," I noticed they currently occupy the No. 1 paid spot on Google, and they live in the second organic result on Google. For a company that invests so much money in SEM, you have to give it to Esurance that they’ve beat them in SEO for this broad term, but I digress.

Beyond search marketing and SEO, their display ad buys are well-thought out and do a great job of not just appearing in the sidebar, but actually fitting well within the content of the site. Some do find them annoying, at least the Little Piggy spot (almost 5 million views on YouTube), but for the most part, they’re hip, funny, and well-placed, even on sites that are off the beaten path (and slightly offensive).

Grade: A

(Note: I’m one of the few who detests the piggy ad, so I didn’t give them an A+ out of spite. Please understand that I’m far from impartial.)

 

Progressive
 


Progressive has stuck with Flo for a long time. We must assume this strategy works for them, or they’d have ditched their spokesperson long ago. However, they aren’t covering the Internet the way Geico is, and their commercials are stale and barely entertaining. While Flo does have a following, I can’t lavish praise on them, but I can say that their search marketing and SEO is adequate (see chart below), and their ad buys aren’t off the mark. 

Grade: B


State Farm

 

Their ads are all over the place, with no clear theme. Their spots include real state farm agents, real people explaining how they save money, the magic jingle ads, and a mishmash of other unrelated focuses. There’s no real call to action nor a consistent message, and their spots are among the dullest, most uninspired ads available.

On the search front, they are all but invisible on broad terms, and they fall middle of the page, when they appear at all, in organic results. 

Grade: C-
 

Allstate


With two major spokespeople, Allstate covers their bases. Their serious spokesman appeals to some, and their wacky Mayhem appeals to the rest. Their tagline is consistent, and their message is on point. I don’t mind the interruption when one runs either on TV or Hulu.

In search, they are more similar to Allstate. No real showing in paid search, and a passable but unspectacular showing in the organic results. 

Grade: B-

 

Farmers
 


After watching that, I’m not sure if I should yawn or offer them my Flip cam so they can improve the quality of the video. I can’t express how dull and unimpressive the majority of Farmers’ commercials are. They’re bad, just bad.

To their credit, though, I have seen a recent shift into more comedic spots, especially on Hulu. Obviously, they still miss the mark. The newer ads are not available online, so I can’t even show them to you. It's odd, considering they have a YouTube channel, and it’s filled with videos. Furthermore, their newer, more hip ads border on obnoxious. Let’s just say that when you watch TV, you don’t want a man screaming at you and leave it at that.

In search, they seem to be trying out paid listings, but they’re not going all out yet because they’re No. 10 for the broad terms "car insurance" and "car insurance quotes." Perhaps they’re determined to focus on keywords and more targeted to buys. If so, I can’t truly fault them there, except to say that if you are not going to be higher up in the paid search listings, it is not in your best interest to invest anything in that term. Save your budget for terms that you can virtually own or for SEO. In organic results, they’re failing at the bottom of the stack. They need a blog, a real social presence, and someone to manage SEO. 

They also have this little gem popping up in general insurance SERP queries. Honestly, I wanted to send Farmers an offer of free help after I saw what they brought to the table. 

I’m not going to give an F because they at least made it on this list, which is more than I can say for the other top providers, and they are trying new things. Props for effort, if not for strategy. 

Grade: D-

I’d love to see some podcast or social ad buys for these companies, but thus far I’ve been unable to locate any. If I’ve missed some, please let me know in the comments.

 

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Robyn Tippins is a community advocate with more than 10 years in the social media space. She oversees the community aspect of the external developers on the Yahoo! Developer Network. Robyn has blogged for blog networks and corporations, podcasted for small and large businesses, worked closely with social networking sites, and advised Fortune 500 companies on social media and community. Her book, co-authored with Miranda Marquit, “Building Communities,” will be released in 2010. Read her blog.

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