Spreading the Good Word

TV remains core, but insurance giant is increasing digital spend

Why This Matters

At a Glance: New York Life Insurance Co.

Based in:

New York City

Domestic insurance sales 2011:$979 million

2010:$957 million

Annuity sales 2011:$8.13 billion

2010:$8.67 billion

Mutual fund sales 2011:$18.94 billion

2010:$10.86 billion

Operating earnings 2011:$1.43 billion

2010:$1.41 billion

Ad Spending, All Measured Media 2011:*$39.21 million

2010:$34.15 million

Cable TV 2011:*$8.34 million

2010:$9.61 million

Network TV 2011:*$10 million

2010:$12 million

Spot TV 2011:*$2.13 million

2010:$2.25 million

*Source: Nielsen Does not include Internet

New York Life, the largest mutual
life insurance company in the
U.S., last month launched a new
ad campaign using TV to reach a broad
audience. The company plans to spend
$20 million over the rest of the year. Liz
McCarthy, senior VP in charge of advertising
and branding strategy, tells B&C business
editor Jon Lafayette how the money is
being spent and what the company is trying
to accomplish. An edited transcript follows.

What message are you getting across?

The theme line for the campaign is “Keep
Good Going.” The idea is that the products
and services that New York Life offers, and
probably most particularly the kind of personalized planning
that our agents help people do, is really designed to help people
perpetuate what’s good in their own lives. [That includes] protecting
their families in the case of a death, but it’s so much
more than that. It’s also preparing for their retirement, leaving a
legacy, financial and otherwise, to people who come after them.

What’s the target audience you’re trying to reach?

We’re very, very broad because of the full range of products
and services that we offer. We really target anyone over the
age of 25, but our core demographic is probably 30-60. But
because we offer income solutions in retirement, that is skewing
older all the time as the American population is skewing
older. Unlike a lot of our competitors, New York Life maintains
a core focus on the middle [income] market. A lot of our competitors
have moved up-market and focus almost exclusively
on affluent consumers. We’re really committed to the middle
market also. So it’s a very broad demographic that we’re targeting
with this. And that’s why it’s an integrated campaign that
has TV, print, digital, social, all the normal components.

With such a broad target, does that make TV a good
vehicle for this message?

It definitely does. As we look at the TV market and we try
to choose the best vehicles for it, we’re looking for places
where families might be together watching television.
That’s hard. In my house we all have our TV, each tuned
to our own channel. And the few things that we watch together,
sports has been the one place you could count on
that, and sports continues to be a key piece of our media
puzzle. We’re looking for places where not only might family
members be gathered together, but where they’re receptive to a message about goodness. We’re looking to really
pulse up our media plans around times of
year like the holidays, like Mother’s Day and
Father’s Day. We’ll be doing a lot of spending
on Thanksgiving and other holidays. We have
a significant spend in cable as well around
food and cooking channels on the Scripps
Networks where people are sort of gathered,
putting together big family meals. And we’re
trying to align our media spend not with our
strategy but with our message.

Is spending on TV going to be up?

Yes, up. I can’t give you an exact number,
but we’ve allocated about $20 million for our
launch period across all media. Because we
have a very broad demographic, TV is a very core part, and
will remain a core part, of our digital spend. We’re ramping up
digital and probably staying fairly flat in print.

You mentioned food shows. Are there other types of
programming that mesh with your campaign?

One of the things that we’ve done quite successfully over the
past several years is to look for opportunities to integrate our
advertising into the content itself. In sports, we have a deal
with SEC football on CBS and so our logo shows up on the
first-down marker. Those are things people can’t TiVo through,
and sports is obviously something people are less likely to TiVo
through. We’ve done something over the past few years in baseball
where when we were running with a real security message
after the financial crisis, we came up with this promotion about
being safe and secure when somebody would be safe at second
or third when they’d slide in on a close play. So we continue
to look for those types of integrations. And some of the more
lifestyle-type programming offers opportunities to do vignettes
that are tied to some of the shows. For instance, we’re looking
at vignettes around family recipes, passing down your best family
recipes on Food Network. On some of our sports programming
on ESPN, we have vignettes about how athletes are with
their own families and good-news moments that are relevant
to where people are when they’re watching these programs.

Have you found
that networks are being more accommodating in terms of finding ways to fit your
messages in closer to content?

Yes, we
have; with our media-buying agency TargetCast we've been quite creative, and
we've found the networks are increasingly creative in putting deals together.
Of course that's because all of them offer cross-platform buys now too, so some
of those vignette-type things that I was talking about before, they might not
be on-air, but they might be online, and it just gives us another way to find
those good cross-promotion opportunities that people are going to find when
they're in the mood to hear that kind of message.

In an
integrated campaign, what media are you using beyond TV?

We have a
fairly robust outdoor program-billboards-because it's a very visual campaign.
We're ramping up our digital and online presence and social, so the concept
behind our print and digital campaign is what we call life lessons. They are the
most important things in your life you learned from somebody and those are the
core messages that you want to pass down to the people you care about. Those
usually lend themselves to video, so we have a series of these little life-lesson
videos online now and we're already getting submissions from people who want to
share their families' life-lesson stories with us, so this is showing promise
to be a very viral campaign. So digital and social are a major component of our

Are you
using TV to reinforce the digital and to encourage people to submit user-generated

At the
moment, they're a little bit distinct. When we first began working the TV
campaign we recognized that until we established this idea that New York Life
helps you perpetuate good, the individual life lessons wouldn't make a lot of
sense. They'd be nice stories but they wouldn't make a lot of sense tying to
New York Life's value proposition and so the first two TV spots that we
produced, we call them our anthem spots. They're more designed to set up that
premise of ‘Keep Good Going.', We anticipate probably in the second half of
next year that we will begin to add individual life-lesson stories to our
television mix built on what we're already starting online.

At that
point will you be running the URL to take people to where they can contribute
their own stories?

not, because it's pretty simple. It's NewYorkLife.com. It's my personal opinion
that increasingly, consumers don't need a URL call to action to do things. We
all live on multiple screens at the same time. When I watch TV with my family,
somebody's got an iPad, somebody's got an iPhone, somebody's on their laptop
and we're Googling what's going on on TV and, who's the voice in that
commercial, and, I remember that ad-it reminds me of another one, what was
that? I think people are intuitive about just going to websites now.

How will
you measure the effectiveness of this campaign?

primarily a brand campaign, not a sales campaign, so obviously sales is the
ultimate barometer of whether you're getting through to people. We have fairly
robust brand tracking in place and we'll be looking at that, not only to see if
our traditional measures like unaided brand awareness go up, but very
specifically the kind of attributes that people affiliate with New York Life.
Right now there is very, very little differentiation in the life insurance
category and financial services as a whole. We're all perceived to be
conservative, strong, and there's very little in terms of more human
attributes. We're really hoping that we get movement and we track on these
kinds of attributes like: understands people like me, shares my values, a good
company. Obviously, digital gives us the ability to track much more
specifically what kind of engagement we have on our Facebook page, how many
submissions of stories we get. Those things are more anecdotal but very telling

Are there
ways to tell how much bang for the buck you're getting from individual TV

We track
reach, GRPs, all the normal metrics about how different buys are performing.
But again, the cross-platform stuff gives us a much better way to see if people
are engaging with it. We can tell if they've watched the ad, but if they then
come to our website and engage with us or go to our Facebook page and engage
with us on Twitter we can easily track that back to the TV it's affiliated
with. An interesting way that we've seen an ability to track the effectiveness
of our TV spend is hits on our website vs. where our ads are appearing. There
tends to be a very close correlation so we can tell-particularly if it's a
high-profile ad buy, a football game or something like that-we can track the
traffic to our website and that gives us an immediate measure of engagement.

Any surprises,
something that did better than expected, or not as well as you thought it

Some things are sort of happy surprises. We have a sponsorship deal with the NHL on TV that we sponsor
overtime. And when a bunch of key games, particularly in the playoffs, went
into overtime, it was just a pretty dramatic end of the season; we got great
lift from that. Similarly, we were a sponsor of the Big East basketball
tournament and again overtime coverage, and so we got some great spikes from
that. Sports has been our most consistent deliverer of outsized returns.

So just after a really exciting ball game, people will go to
your website?

they really do. They see our ad. They see our logo and we get a spike in
traffic to our website.

Are there things that media vendors can do that can help you
get your message out in new and effective ways? Are they being more helpful?

would say it really kind of mirrors what we're doing with our consumers, which
is media properties historically have done just what we did, they talk about
themselves, and they say what they do and what they can deliver. And
increasingly, we're all demanding customized solutions. Don't talk about you,
talk to me about what you can do for me. And I think that's the trend that I've
seen increase every year. People are being more creative. The sales reps are
less coming out and telling their corporate stories but more coming out doing
some research about the brand and our goals and putting together customized
ideas. We might not end up buying that idea, but engaging us in those creative,
"how could we work together" solutions, is really the most value added.
Particularly when then can offer that across multiple channels or multiple
media, incredibly valuable.

How's technology affecting your approach to marketing and

doesn't technology affect? Like everybody else, recognizing the need to be
consistent and reinforcing across all technology platforms, the ability to
measure so much more and so much faster so that we can be much more responsive,
particularly digital, but even television, you don't have to wait very [long]
for results on how a campaign is doing so we can be more responsive in our buy.
So that means in general we keep a larger share of our media spend for
opportunistic buys, rather than in upfront, because we're able to capitalize on
that as best we can. Social is changing everyone. That Facebook thing, I think
it's going to catch on. So again, the story that we're trying to tell, our ‘Keep
Good Going' and life-lesson stories, is an emotional appeal, so we think that
social and digital will be an increasing part of our story for the long term.

advertised for a long time. What happened to your former slogan, the company
you keep?

still our corporate tagline. We're not doing it in the first round of ads in
this campaign because we are trying to establish this new theme of Keep Good
Going and we didn't want competing sound bites in the ads, but we still use
that heavily internally and we'll very likely return to it in advertising at
some point.

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette