How Direct Line plans to create new category ‘entry points’ with its latest brand campaign

Having won the Marketing Week Awards Grand Prix for its brand platform last year, Direct Line has launched a new campaign to shift perceptions even further.

Direct Line is making a strategic shift under its award-winning ‘We’re On It’ platform, as it looks to take “ownership” of a position within the insurance market as the only brand that will be its customers’ “backup” in times of need.

The new campaign is the fourth under the brand platform, which launched in March 2020 to replace Direct Line’s long-running and still highly-successful platform, ‘The Fixer’. We’re On It sees well-known  superheroes race to save consumers from various home, business and car related troubles, only to find Direct Line is already fixing the problem.

With an initial team of Robocop, Transformers’ Autobot Bumblebee, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Donatello, the brand platform went on to win the Marketing Week Masters Grand Prix in 2021 after driving strong results across all measures.

Created by Saatchi & Saatchi, ‘Optimus Prime’s Time Off’ sees Transformers’ character Optimus Prime arrive at the scene of a car accident to help – but Direct Line has the situation covered. While initially reluctant to stand down, Optimus ultimately decides to take some time off to enjoy beach volleyball, sightseeing and a spa treatment.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Direct Line’s head of marketing Wendy Moores says the first round of the platform did a “great job” of landing the message that “no one solves problems like Direct Line”.

We’ve taken some time to get here, but for the right reasons. Every time we’ve gone into research, we’ve learned something really important.

Wendy Moores, Direct Line

However, now the brand wants to enhance its position even further and “access more category entry points” with customers than ever before. Working with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Direct Line realised it could own a position as the only insurer to have its customers’ backs.

“Ownership of that territory is something we recognise is up for grabs, because there isn’t another insurer that’s really owning [it] right now,” Moores explains.

“So there’s a huge opportunity for Direct Line to stand out in a hugely competitive market for being able to reassure customers that we’ve got their backs.”

The evolution of the campaign is therefore “really exciting”, Moores says, as it takes the brand platform beyond just the speed of its service. Direct Line still wants customers to understand its problem solving credentials, but it also wants customers to recognise the business gives them “the backup they need”.

“We’re so good at problem solving that the superheroes can just take some time off, because they’re not needed. Direct Line has got you covered,” Moores says.Direct Line, KFC and Camelot win big at the Marketing Week Masters awards

Onboarding Optimus

With the new addition to the platform coming almost two years after the first three films launched, Moore admits the launch has been slowed by a “really thorough and rigorous” research process. The brand not only wanted to understand which characters would resonate best, but how people would respond to this change of narrative.

“We’ve taken some time to get here, but for the right reasons. Every time we’ve gone into research, we’ve learned something really important. We’ve fed that back in and evolved the scripts to the place where we’re now really confident in their ability to deliver,” she explains.

Consumer research reveals the way people feel about insurance hasn’t changed much over time. They continue to feel the industry is lacking transparency and makes buying insurance “a bit of a game”. But Direct Line hopes consumers will feel different about its own brand.

“Being able to demonstrate to them that [they] don’t have to worry because Direct Line has [them] covered is really important, because that starts to gnaw away at that worry,” Moores says.

What we’re demonstrating between We’re On It one and We’re On It two is that it has got the ability to flex and delivery a variety of different messages.

Wendy Moores, Direct Line

The new campaign therefore adopts a different tone – still “epic and cinematic”, she says, but more focused on delivering “a little bit of extra joy and entertainment”.

With the inclusion of Bumblebee “hugely successful” in the first round of the campaign, onboarding another Autobot for the latest iteration was an obvious choice. In Optimus Prime, Direct Line got a character that is not only big in terms of size, but also in terms of gravitas.

Getting the licence to use such iconic and well-known characters was much harder the first time round, Moores says, despite the credibility of both the agency and Direct Line as an advertiser. But from treating the characters “authentically” and keeping them true to their nature, conversations with rights holder Hasbro this time have been “really open”.

Measuring success

The first round of marketing activity as the brand platform launched in 2020 was highly effective for Direct Line, driving significant improvements across a balance of commercial and brand performance metrics.

In the short term, cost per acquisition dropped by 1.5%, while short-term ROI improved by 4%. The brand TV campaign was also found to be 20% more effective at driving quotes and sales than The Fixer, and drove sales across the entire portfolio. Among small business audiences, We’re On It significantly lifted spontaneous awareness by six points and first choice consideration by two points.

The brand also closely tracked performance against three brand associations which “ladder up” to a perception of brand superiority, and improvements were again recorded across all three. Those associations were: ‘are best at solving problems’ (+3.8 points), ‘goes beyond what you would expect from an insurer’ (+4.7 points), and ‘will sort out claims more efficiently than any other insurance providers’ (+4.2 points).
Inside the Grand Prix winning Direct Line campaign that delivered against all measuresIt’s a tough act for Optimus Prime to follow. With this campaign, Direct Line wants to continue to improve its brand awareness and consideration, as well as perception among customers that they don’t have to worry because Direct Line takes care of things for them.

And while perceptions of speed and efficiency aren’t metrics the brand is looking to shift this time, it needs to make sure it doesn’t “damage” the equity built over eight years of talking about effective problem solving at pace, Moores says.

But the ad also needs to work effectively in the short term as well as the long term, she adds, explaining: “It’s a big brand campaign, the TV assets in particular, but the through-the-line campaign is there to drive demand today as well as tomorrow.”

The campaign will run across TV, cinema, out of home (OOH), social and digital content, with Mediacom handling media planning and buying. It’s only through a combination of all of these platforms and assets that the overall message will be able to come through, Moores says.

“[We’re] making sure we can access more category entry points with consumers than we have done previously. So they know us for fast, efficient problem solving. Now it’s providing that secondary layer of recognising that if you choose Direct Line, it’s a smart choice because then you don’t have to worry,” she explains.

Ownership of that territory is something we recognise is up for grabs, because there isn’t another insurer that’s really owning [it] right now.

Wendy Moores, Direct Line

When Direct Line wrote the brief for the platform in 2018, it hoped the concept would carry the insurance company through at least five, if not 10 years.

“We wanted to create something future proof that will enable us to keep telling the Direct Line story. Obviously insurance will evolve over the next couple of years, so it needed to be a platform that was flexible enough to tell that story in different ways,” she says.

“I think what we’re demonstrating between We’re On It one and We’re On It two is that it has got the ability to flex and deliver a variety of different messages.”

As such, there’s no intention to take the foot off the pedal any time soon. The brand remains committed to the platform and the options it has to expand it further.

“We’ve got lots of exciting opportunities ahead of us and are opening up those conversations to talk about Direct Line in really surprising and different ways,” Moores concludes.