Following a creative review that commenced late last year, AA Insurance has parted ways with Special Group and appointed DDB as its new creative agency.
Alongside the creative shift, AA Insurance has also ended its partnership with Twenty (on direct marketing) and Starcom (on media).
“We’re looking forward to working with the team at DDB, Rapp and OMD, who will be sharing their expertise with us, and bringing a fresh perspective and ideas that will help us meet our goals in this growing market,” said AA Insurance's head of marketing Richard Park.
Starcom had been working with AA Insurance for the past nine years, while Special Group and Twenty have held the account since 2011 (Park did say he hopes to continue working with Twenty on data).
In commenting on the decision to switch its business from these partners, Park said it's largely attributable to the recent changes in media.
“As the boundaries between marketing have become fragmented, with a blurring of lines between traditional, direct, digital and media disciplines, it made sense for us to go with the full-service group that is DDB.”
According to Nielsen's media spend figures (admittedly more of guideline than an accurate indication), AA Insurance spent over $12 million on advertising in 2015, so it comes as little surprise that DDB chief executive Justin Mowday is "rapt with the result."
AA Insurance is a joint venture between the NZ Automobile Association and Vero Insurance New Zealand Limited, which is part of the Suncorp Group. It launched in 1994 and has over 320,000 customers and around 580,000 car, home and contents policies. The business is thought to be performing well (its parent company Suncorp increased profits in New Zealand by 64 percent last year) and the brand appears to be in pretty good shape (it has been named the most trusted insurer by Reader’s Digest for the past five years).
Mowday says that the company has clear strategic plan that it hopes to roll out over the next few years.
"They know where they want to be in the next five years and we look forward to helping them achieve that," Mowday says.
Mowday said DDB's strong creative offering coupled with the specialist skills of Rapp and placed alongside OMD's strategic nous provides AA Insurance "with one cohesive solution" to bring this strategic plan to frutition—and he believes this was integral in the agency winning the account.
As part of the pitch process, the shortlisted agencies (understood to have been DDB, Special Group and one other) were required to outline their credentials and explain why they were best suited to take over the account. Thereafter, the client held a series of brainstorming sessions with the agencies before then being asked to develop a strategic and creative task.
AA Insurance is currently running a series of advice spots in association with its sponsorship of TVNZ's Our First Home, but these were developed by Special Group prior to the appointment of DDB to the account.
In other pitching news, Special Group has picked up the cross-Tasman Bell Tea and Coffee Company account.
Nielsen's ad spend figures show that Bell Tea spent between $1.7 and $3.5 million on advertising a year over the last three years. And while this won't completely fill the gap left by AA Insurance, Special Group managing partner Michael Redwood says the agency will not be letting any of its staff go.
"We've had a strong period of new business growth," he says.
It's also worth noting that Nielsen's figures do not take into account the amount spent across the ditch—and this is relevant given that Special will be working with the client both here and in Australia.
“The Bell team are super-smart, entrepreneurial marketers and it’s been great working with them over the years,” said Special Group managing partner Michael Redwood in a statement. “And we’re really excited to be partnering them across the whole business in both New Zealand and Australia.”
Special opened an Australian office in the middle of 2014, and its presence in the country was significant for Bell Tea.
"Bell Tea is investing to drive growth in export markets," said Bell's head of marketing Michaela Dumper, "and Special’s strong Australian presence will be really valuable.”
Special has been working with Bell's coffee brands, Jed's and Gravity, for some years, and this win sees the entire Bell portfolio included on the agency's roster.
The incumbent on the Bell Tea account was Whybin\TBWA, which interestingly won the account after a creative pitch against Special Group in 2013.
ZenithOptimedia, which won the account earlier this year, works with Bell Tea on the media side.