Background: Direct Line is one of the UK’s biggest success stories.
It became Britain’s largest private motor insurer just ten years after
its launch in 1985. It is already the seventh biggest home insurer and
continues to chip away at the profits of non-direct providers of
Direct Line has expanded its product range into mortgages, loans, credit
cards and life and investment products. It recently announced a pounds
50 million motoring e-commerce venture that will sell cars and related
The company’s philosophy is to offer consumers good-value financial
products over the phone and, increasingly, the web. This approach
certainly seems to have paid off, with Direct Line’s six call centres
handling more than 15 million calls a year and selling a motor insurance
policy every six seconds.
Branding: Direct Line has enjoyed huge marketing benefits from its
long-running, high impact TV ads featuring a red telephone on wheels.
The icon and its associated jingle were designed to evoke feelings of
friendliness, fun, innovation and rescue. It has established high levels
of recall among consumers - Millward Brown reported 95 per cent
awareness in 1997. The brand also won the ITV Brand of the Year award in
An important aspect of Direct Line’s branding is its positioning as a
’consumer champion’. The insurer has run advertising and PR campaigns
fighting everything from compulsory home insurance forced on homeowners
by mortgage lenders, to ’rip off’ rates on credit cards, loans and
This strategy is reflected in Direct Line’s advertising themes and has
resulted in favourable PR and endorsement of its products by consumer
Media mix: Direct Line is one of the UK’s top 100 advertisers and spent
pounds 22.8 million in the year to February 2000. Well over half of its
spend (pounds 13.2 million) went on TV, using a total of 102 stations,
94 per cent of them terrestrial. The company also uses direct mail
extensively (pounds 5.8 million).
Key advertising campaigns in the past 12 months included new TV work
promoting mortgages and personal loans in July. The launch work for
DirectLine.com appeared in January this year, and new spots for motor
insurance launched in mid-February on various Astra channels.
Agencies: Direct Line uses MediaCom TMB for its media buying and
planning, and Mortimer Whitaker O’Sullivan for its creative. It has not
yet decided whether to use a new agency or the incumbent for its motor
e-commerce venture. The original red telephone ads were devised by its
former agency Davis Wilkins.
Trends: Direct Line’s trustworthy image makes the internet an ideal
distribution channel. Its website already offers online quotation and
purchase of a range of products and the recent pounds 50 million
investment in the motor e-commerce venture indicates that the web is
central to its future plans.
Research by AC Nielsen MMS tel: 01344-627553 www.mediamonitoring.com