Showing posts with label Progressive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Progressive. Show all posts

Monday, August 27

Driving Ads: FreeCar Media

FreeCar Media, which is a nontraditional marketing company with offices in Los Angeles and New York, seems to have stumbled upon the right guerilla marketing mix by leveraging prime advertising real estate — consumer-owned vehicles.

According to a recent The New York Times story, thousands of motorists are already signing up to have their cars and trucks wrapped in advertisements. While the story said the mentions a stipend of up to $800 a month, FreeCar Media only includes for up to $400 per month on its Web site, which covers some car payments.

In some cases however, drivers may not have to think about payments at all. Some receive a new car to use for about two years in lieu of a cash stipend (insurance and gas is still the responsibility of the driver). As an interesting side note, applicants seem strongly encouraged to consider changing their policy to Progressive, creating a guerilla marketing campaign of sorts within a guerilla marketing campaign.

This might trump the old saying “never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but perhaps just a bit. Pause long enough to know what you are filling out as wrapping the vehicle might not be the only criteria. Those chosen are also asked to refrain from smoking, littering, or swearing in their vehicle (easy); attend a monthly “influencer event” where they hand out samples or coupons (moderate); and send reports and frequency updates that include photos of where the cars have been (hard).

Applicants are not always selected because it is the advertisers who choose the drivers they want. This decision, according to the company, is largely based on how much information the applicant is willing to provide. However, whether the company uses this information for other marketing purposes is also not clear.

What is clear is that it has worked for some products and companies: Pringles, HBO, International House of Pancakes, and Tang are all among them. In the Pringles case study from 2001, a fleet of 25 consumer-owned vehicles were wrapped in Atlanta.

At the inception of that campaign, all 25 vehicles lined up in front of Turner Stadium for a Braves vs. Mets game. All the drivers and their families (which consisted primarily of soccer moms/dads), sat in the back of their vehicles passing out free Pringles samples to 52,000 baseball fans. It was not clear whether the families received additional compensation for their time at the game or if the wraps were removed at the end of the 3-month campaign.

What is starting to interest me is how far consumers will allow advertising to permeate their lives and what are the long-term consequences to the dilution of the message. Already, some studies suggest it takes well over 200 impressions to have the same impact 80 impressions did just a few years ago. (And this doesn’t include any opt-in mobile phone advertising programs that are likely to be introduced in the future.)

Still, mobile billboards (if not consumer cars) does make sense for some advertisers. Although FreeCar Media estimates almost 70,000 other motorists and pedestrians will see the advertisement daily, most mobile billboards offer better reach along planned routes (and use much more conservative numbers). We’ve arranged some in the past; they are exceptionally well suited to targeted location/route advertising.

So how do you top this? If you want some ideas, visit Las Vegas where advertising wraps have reached new heights. EliteMedia, which specializes in outdoor advertising, has placed huge advertisements on several iconic hotels, including Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. You can see some of the recent wraps on their blog.

Seeing an ad cover an entire building seems fun, or in some cases, um, interesting. It also makes you wonder. If your niche blog doesn’t excite people, maybe you can consider how much the average residential garage door might be worth, a yard sign during peak political season, or perhaps spiffy ad wraps for frequent fliers.

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Friday, August 24

Needing Redemption: Glenn Renwick, Progressive

“At Progressive, we have a stated set of Core Values that we use to guide our decision making and actions,” says Glenn Renwick, president and CEO of Progressive. “One of these Values is the Golden Rule — treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Given this quote is pulled directly from an ill-advised statement after the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke a story about how private investigators working for Progressive tape recorded church sessions, it's hard to believe.

Why were investigators recording church members who confessed about abortions, sexual orientation issues, drug addictions and other dark secrets? It seems the company was hoping to discredit a couple who were in an ongoing lawsuit over a traffic accident. The couple has now filed a lawsuit that charges invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality, emotional distress, fraud, and other issues.

“For the past 70 years, we've built our business by building trust,” Renwick continues. “Trust that we will do the right thing on behalf of our customers — every day, every time.”

Coincidentally, trust seems be the buzzword behind Progressive’s TripSense, which allows Minnesota drivers to get discounts if they can “prove” that they drive less. Given that simply asking for an odometer reading might work just as effectively, one has to wonder just how "progressive" the definition of trust has become.

“We make sure we always fall well within the law," said James Purgason Jr. and Paige Weeks of Merlin Investigations, the investigators who were contracted by Wisconson-based Progressive Northern Insurance Co. "How it's interpreted from there isn't up to us."

But not all private investigators feel that way. When reporter D.L. Bennett asked Glenn Christian of Coastal Investigations in Savannah, who serves as president of the Georgia Association of Private Investigators, what he thought, Christian said that some companies would never do that. He said there is a fine line between what might be legal and what is moral.

To be fair, it seems Renwick was personally unaware of what Wisconson-based Progressive Northern Insurance Co. was attempting to do to win its case and there seems little to be little doubt that he is appalled. However, he was clearly aware of the statement that now decorates the Progressive Web site. And frankly, he should be appalled that he signed off on it.

There is only one statement that may have not turned into what Collateral Damage calls one of the more obvious definitions of a public relations nightmare. It would have been the one that skips the messages about trust and company history and cuts right to the chase. Something like this...

Upon learning that Progressive Northern Insurance Co. and contracted investigators, Merlin Investigations, breached our company’s values two years ago, Progressive will be settling this case as quickly as possible. (Um, insert a line about restitution for the couple, the church, AND all those other people who were there). As a company, we are appalled and apologize to all those impacted.

To ensure this never happens again and to send a clear message to all of our divisions, we will be releasing all parties who were aware that this investigation was grossly overreaching for evidence. I only wish that the incident would have been brought to my attention two years ago so we could have acted promptly then and protected this couple from tactics that clearly cross the line of ethical and moral decency.


The end. No gratuitous 3-paragraph company cut line required.

Sure, it isn’t perfect, but even this 3-second solution reads as more genuine than the original. Or, in other words, one can only hope Progressive covers “communication ignorance” because this statement reads like a pileup. Once again, it's never the incident as much as the aftermath that gets companies in trouble.

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