How traditional insurance brand Ageas launched a consumer start-up

Insurance brand Ageas is claiming a first with Back Me Up, an app targeted at millennial consumers.

Built on the basis that younger consumers want flexibility on insurance and ease-of-use, the app allows customers to switch coverage on or off through their smartphones, and take photos of the items they want to insure.

The plan costs £15 a month and consumers can activate or deactivate coverage at any time.

The app covers modern-day mishaps, such as broken mobile phone screens, lost keys, and lock replacement.

Paul Lynes, managing director of Back Me Up, said Ageas had noticed an unmet need among younger consumers for flexible coverage.

"The insurance industry traditionally has a take-it-or-leave-it approach, with a home contents policy, a separate travel policy and another gadgets policy," he said. "But younger consumers didn’t want an annual contract; they wanted something that suited their lifestyle."

Ageas hit on two insights – that younger consumers owned fewer possessions, but cared deeply about the items they did own such as smartphones and laptops. Another was that they wanted to insure experiences, such as festival trips and travel, and not just items.

Creating an internal start-up

The app only came about from Ageas’ willingness to effectively foster an internal start-up, said Lynes.

The insurance company conventionally operates as a B2B brand running, for example, Tesco’s insurance product.

Back Me Up stemmed from the board’s decision to expand into direct-to-consumer brands.

Lynes and his team created the app concept, pitched it to the board and won funding from Ageas’ international €25m (£21.6m) innovation pot. 

Rather than create Back Me Up within Ageas’ existing offices, Lynes and his team formed a start-up style "crack unit" with separate offices.

While Lynes was usually based in Ageas’ Eastleigh offices near Southampton, he and the Back Me Up team moved to small offices in London to begin developing the product.

"The step to take ourselves out of the business was deliberate," said Lynes. "We were worried that if we stayed in the business and tried to create something off the side of our desks, we would come up with a traditional solution."

The campaign

M&C Saatchi was brought on board shortly after the app was pitched as a concept, with the agency creating the design, user experience and launch campaign.

The campaign comprises four films showing unusual insurance situations, such as  like a man on holiday trying (and failing) to take a selfie with a snake.

Tim Duffy, chairman of M&C Saatchi, noted that formats such as YouTube pre-rolls were well-suited to targeting millennials "living life on their phones".

He said: "We wanted to reflect what matters to the consumers – they don’t want insurance because they are cautious, they want to back up their stuff because they are outgoing, with exciting lives."

The campaign is initially digital-only and launched on 3 August, with the films running on platforms including Vice and Facebook, as well as YouTube-pre-rolls. The campaign was created by Alan Jones and Angelo An at M&C Saatchi and directed by Chris Palmer through Gorgeous. 

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