“Trusted Choice” Hits The Air Waves This month marks the launch of what many agents and their company partners hope is a new marketing era for independent agents throughout the country, as “Trusted Choice” hits the airwaves.

“Trusted Choice” is the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Americas branding initiative designed to educate consumers on the value of having independent agents on their side in the insurance transaction.

While the “Trusted Choice” campaign has been gathering support from companies and agents for almost two years, February marks the kick off of the national advertising campaign. The plan calls for three 30 second advertising spots to be broadcast on national cable news networks during prime time viewing hours.

According to said Larry Acord, executive director of “Trusted Choice” and vice president of consumer marketing for the Alexandria, Va.-based association, the lighthearted pieces are designed to draw attention to what consumers are looking for most in the insurance transaction: choice, advocacy and customization. He said these are things which captive and direct agents are not in a position to give.

“Consumers see insurance as very complicated and they dont like or trust companies,” Mr. Acord noted, suggesting that consumers think of insurers as “faceless” entities. “That is where we have the advocate looking out for their best interests,” he said.

Now, for agents who have made the investment in the “Trusted Choice” program, they will be rewarded with an active national television campaign that has proven consumer recognition in test markets, Mr. Acord said.

Last year, in the test market survey of the ads shown in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., Mr. Acord said the three ads, which focused on auto, home, and commercial lines, scored a four on the recognition marketing scale. This was a very high rating, he said, since the norm is usually less than one.

The ad campaign, budgeted at less than $500,000, has 122 spots on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News Network prime time news shows over a six week period. It is targeted at a professional audience over the age of 35.

Companies and agents who have already involved themselves in the campaign have nothing but praise for the marketing product.

“Once we understood the goals of Trusted Choice, we thought they were in alignment with our strategy and it was the best way to sell insurance,” said Mike LaRocco, president of Seattle based SAFECOs personal lines business. “Consumers need trusted advisors and the “Trusted Choice” members provide that type of support.”

SAFECO, he explained, did its own unique advertising incorporating the “Trusted Choice” brand, he said. While the company has not taken a survey of the ads effectiveness, he said intuitively, from feedback the company has gotten, the results have been positive.

Being there as a trusted advocate for the consumer has always been the focus of Smith, Sawyer & Smith, Inc., a 16-person independent agency in Rochester, Inc.

Ron Smith, the agencys president and chairman of the “Trusted Choice” board, said he was an early advocate of the program. With the brand, he said, he believes his agency will benefit from the advocacy of the program and help the agency grow.

“We think people are brand conscious,” noted Mr. Smith. “Any emphasis we place on what we say we are, I think, will only help us.”

“I think this has an opportunity to be of assistance because, in the end, if we cant live up to that pledge, we wont be able to keep the business anyway. It is what people are looking for.”

“We are very excited,” said Michelle Rupp, chief executive officer of Nowogroski Rupp Insurance Group in Seattle. “We have needed a brand to identify us with customers for a long time.”

The agency has been working with the advertising that was launched in the area last year, and she said, it is now revving up for the national campaign. And, she added, the advertising has claimed success. In the first week of the campaign, two new clients came to her office after seeing the advertising and going to the “Trusted Choice” locator on the Web, she said, noting that both ended up buying policies.

After the national campaign, the agency will consider trying its hand at advertising locally over radio, using the template which the “Trusted Choice” program is making available to agents.

Once the national campaign is finished, “Trusted Choice” ads will be available to member agents to use in their local television and radio markets. For a small fee, the ads will be tailored for their agency and shipped to the station the spots will run on.

A form and additional information is available at www.trustedchoice.com. A preview of the ads is also available on the site.

Ms. Rupp said having such ads is important because it gives consumers “a consistent message about who we are.”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 3, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.