From generalisation to personalisation: Tower’s new app rewards drivers on individual performance

Every time a GPS-connected vehicle drives down the road, data related to the speed, route and habits of the driver can be recorded. And while most of this information might seem arbitrary, Tower has just released an app that uses it to reward responsible drivers with reduced insurance premiums—thereby marking a shift from the generalisations traditionally used to determine the amount to be paid.

Designed by Tower in collaboration with the app developer DriveFactor, the SmartDriver app has been taken to market by retail agency .99 via the Lighthouse Keeper brand character in a new TVC that explains how the concept works.


In addition to screening the 30-second spot, Tower has also posted a longer explanatory video on its .99-created SmartCentre microsite, which features branded content in the form of a series of tips on issues relevant to potential customers.    

Using GPS-collected information and other specially designed smartphone technology, the app tracks users’ driving performance in terms of speed, acceleration and braking.

Once the app has been used for 250km it gives the driver a score out of 10, which can then possibly result in a reduction of the driver’s premium. 

“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,” says Tower’s general manager customer proposition Mark Savage.

Savage made a point of saying this is a new form of insurance in New Zealand, because 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. Many of the elements in Aviva’s app are mirrored—albeit in a modified form—by Tower’s app, and there are also parallels between the instructional videos that were coupled with the release of the respective apps.

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 says that the process is dictated by certain guidelines.  

“There is a scale, but we’ve chosen not to publish it. With SmartDriver, New Zealanders can be rewarded with a saving of up to 20% if they prove they’re a good driver – if a driver receives a low score there is no negative impact on their premium.”

Ben Goodale, the managing director of .99, says that this approach marks a significant divergence from the way in which insurance premiums have been calculated in the past.

Traditionally, insurance premiums have been determined by factors such as the driver’s age 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 accurately calculating a person’s proficiency behind the wheel. 

Goodale says that we are “moving to a point in time when people are starting to feel more comfortable with technology on their shoulders,” but he warns that corporates need to work to earn this data.

“Historically, companies would just ask people to sign up and share their information. In such an instance, there’s nothing in it for the customer and it only benefits the company. The difference with the app from Tower is that clients stand to gain the benefit of a discount from sharing their information,” he says.

In a recent article written for StopPress and NZ Marketing, Christopher Dawson shared similar 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.”

Goodale says that this technology also has the potential to serve a more utilitarian purpose in terms of making the road a safer place for everyone.

“This is really a precursor of what is to come. The future of road safety is that we can’t speed due to technological controls that restrict us from driving too fast.”

And while such as comments might trigger an Orwellian reflex in some, the argument has merit given that technological advancements—such ABS breaking, power steering, air bags and cruise control—have contributed to safer roads throughout history.  

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