Campaign: How A Red Phone Grew A Super Product Into A Superbrand
Client: Direct Line
Agencies: Mortimer Whittaker O'Sullivan, MediaCom
Principal authors: Dom Boyd, Mortimer Whittaker O'Sullivan; Nigel
Media used: TV, print, outdoor, radio, direct marketing, press
This is the story of how advertising made famous by a little red phone and a "we're coming to the rescue" jingle helped Direct Line achieve more than 95 per cent recognition and grow profits from £26 million to £355 million in seven years. It also earned the company a page in the book of consumer Superbrands.
Direct Line has had to contend with cut-throat competition. Of the 300-plus insurance companies in the UK, by 1995 more than 20 were "direct" operators like Direct Line. This led to a persistent price war, costing the motor market more than £2 billion.
As Jim Wallace, its group marketing director, pointed out, advertising is Direct Line's "only shop window", so any changes in strategy were risky, especially when ads to date had proved effective. But with its rivals catching up and its share falling, change was essential.
The red phone would continue to feature in ads as a brand sign-off, but - bravely - would no longer take centre-stage. A new campaign was developed, featuring conversations between customers and Direct Line operators. It not only helped to keep awareness growing, but also broadened perceptions of what Direct Line could offer.
The campaign has shot both customer demand and loyalty to new heights.
Direct Line now enjoys the highest margins in the UK insurance industry and, since 1990, has generated £1 billion in additional profits.
The judges' view
This paper represents an admirable attempt to measure the contribution of the iconic red phone to the rise and rise of Direct Line. The case explores several eras in the brand's development and communications evolution, and makes good use of a control region to underscore the value advertising has created.