Inside the Grand Prix winning Direct Line campaign that delivered against all measures

Direct Line Group’s ‘We’re On It’ campaign took home the top prize at the Marketing Week Masters last week, after driving long and short term business impact and surpassing the already admirable efforts of its previous brand platform.

Marketers can spend a lifetime in pursuit of effectiveness, deciphering how to put together campaigns that drive measurable and significant business impact. So when a business has a high performing, effective, brand-building campaign under its belt, the last thing you’d expect it to do is to kill it.

Yet, with its five year old ‘The Fixer’ campaign, Direct Line did just that. The campaign was launched in 2013 and had been incredibly powerful for the brand, bringing its entire category back to a conversation about insurance’s fundamental role in people’s lives after the rise of price comparison sites caused significant market disruption.
 
That role was not just to give people their money back, but to put things right when they go wrong, the campaign expressed. It resulted in five years of growth for the brand after 20 consecutive quarters of decline.
 
But in 2018, Direct Line made the “utterly terrifying” decision to drop the still effective campaign, replacing it with a new creative platform: ‘We’re On It’. Despite the risk, the decision has proved so impactful over both the long and short term that the brand took home the prestigious Grand Prix award at the Marketing Week Masters. 
 
According to brand tribe lead Kerry Chilvers, the business recognised that The Fixer had limitations moving forward and that it needed a new creative platform that was “fit for the future”. Direct Line also wanted to tell stories beyond just the core product, talking instead across the entire portfolio including business insurance.
 
“We wanted to make sure we were operating not at a product level but at a brand level, so we can talk to a much broader range of customers,” Chilvers explains to Marketing Week. 
 
Crucially, Chilvers also wanted to move on while the brand was still in a position of strength and The Fixer campaign was performing well, so the business would have the “luxury of time” to make choices without having to compromise
 
Direct Line took over a year to develop its new campaign, after delivering the brief to creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi in 2019. We’re On It launched in February the following year.
 
The results
 
The new platform continues the idea of Direct Line fixing issues. However, rather than demonstrating how it can react to problems, the campaign aims to show the insurer as more proactive.
 
It features three characters – Bumblebee from Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Donatello and RoboCop – showing them being beaten by Direct Line in an emergency situation including a car accident and office break-in. It brings together all Direct Line’s products for the first time and is built on the insight that no matter the type of customer, people want their insurance company to seek out and solve problems.
 
In a stroke of bad luck, the campaign launched just three weeks before the UK went into lockdown last year. As such, the brand’s multimedia launch plan, including outdoor ads in busy city centres, transport media and cinema, had to be shelved.
 
In the end media spend was predominantly focused on TV and social, with media planning executed by MediaCom. Social activity was all about driving awareness of the new communications platform, Direct Line’s head of marketing Wendy Moore says, because The Fixer had been so well known that to move to a new creative platform the brand needed to land the idea “very quickly”.
 
“So using channels that gave us really big reach and high frequency was really important at the beginning of the campaign”, she says.
 
Ultimately, Direct Line needed the new campaign to deliver the same return on investment – if not better – as The Fixer did. However, the brand “fully expected [performance] to get worse before it got better”, Chilvers says, particularly once the pandemic took hold.
 
“We had this mammoth, theme-building, highly recognised campaign, and were about to land something that still had the same brief at its heart but was ultimately a very different creative vehicle,” she says. “We really expected performance to get worse before it got better. That was the message internally that we had managed well and were fully prepared for.”
 
So the brand was “wholly surprised” by the speed of cut through it experienced on the launch of the campaign.
 
Read the rest of the article on Marketing Week here

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