Road warriors, come out and play: Tower taps into Kiwis’ competitive streak with SmartDriver Battle

Until the driverless car finally arrives to take over from us, we’re stuck with humans behind the wheel. But the robots are already here to a degree, with computers reacting to keep us safe on the road and data being collected from connected cars and smartphones that can tell us how we’re driving. Some (mostly liars) see that data collection as slightly concerning, others see it as potentially useful, and insurance is one sector that has started to embrace it by giving discounts to less risky clients. Tower Insurance launched its SmartDriver app last year and offered up to 20 percent off premiums for safer drivers. Now, via its new agency Barnes Catmur & Friends, it’s drawing attention to the app and its benefits by asking people to take part in a SmartDriver Battle. 

SmartDriver collects basic driving information through the numerous sensors within your smartphone, including the accelerometer and the GPS. The information collected, which includes distance, location, braking and acceleration, is then used to determine driving behaviour. And given driving is close to a competitive sport among partners, mates and family members, it’s created a quirky campaign that pits TV personalities Mark Richardson and Hayley Holt against each other to see who’s a safer driver (in a Crowd Goes Wild Isuzu ute, of course). And everyone who takes part in a battle goes into the monthly draw for free car insurance for a year.

Designed by Tower in collaboration with the app developer DriveFactor, the SmartDriver app was taken to market by retail agency .99. Once the app has been used for 250km it gives the driver a score out of ten, which can then possibly result in a reduction of the driver’s premium. Traditionally, insurance premiums have been determined by factors such as the driver’s age, car type and address. And while such indicators at best give a generalised guideline as to the driver’s ability, Tower’s app can provide the insurer with data capable of more accurately calculating a person’s proficiency behind the wheel. 

“The SmartDriver app is a completely new form of insurance in New Zealand, giving customers the rates they deserve, based on the way they’re driving,” said Tower’s general manager customer proposition Mark Savage.

Such technology has already been used abroad for quite some time. DriveFactor, the company that helped to design Tower’s app, was previously involved in launching similar technology in the United States with its DirectDrive app for Direct General.

Arguably the most comparable app to Tower’s would be the Aviva Drive, which was created by UK-based AMV BBDO last year. When Aviva’s app was released in the UK, it was published with a scale that gave users an indication of the discounts they would qualify for in terms of the scores recorded on the app.


The Tower website does not feature a comparable breakdown, but a spokesperson from the company said it has chosen not to publish its scale.

Tower says it doesn’t use data in relation to any claims and doesn’t rent or sell personal information to third parties and “if a driver receives a low score there is no negative impact on their premium”. 

In an article written for StopPress and NZ Marketing, Christopher Dawson shared sentiments regarding the importance of earning rather than expecting customer data.

“Many people want to use in-car navigation because it is convenient but most would not want their GPS locations to be recorded by carmakers and sold as anonymous metadata to advertisers,” he says. “With the right proposition, however, customers might actually volunteer that data and even welcome targeted advertisements. If, for example, their annual fuel costs or insurance premiums were reduced in exchange for their data. This is the thing that many consumers want brands to understand; use my data by all means, as long as it is used to make my life better.”

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