Client: Mortgage Insurance Companies of America (Washington)
PR Team: Porter Novelli (Washington)
Campaign: The Value of Mortgage Insurance
Time Frame: June 2000 - ongoing
Budget: dollars 400,000
In 1995, Rep. James V. Hansen (R-UT) painted the seven members of the
Mortgage Insurance Companies of America (MICA) as enemies of the
American dream by alleging they were bilking homebuyers out of insurance
Hansen pushed for legislation forcing the companies - which insure home
mortgages for people who can afford only minimal down payments - to
inform borrowers that they no longer need insurance after paying 20% of
their balance. His efforts led to a 1999 law protecting consumers, a
bill that MICA officials say they supported. But the organization felt
the legislative process had painted their industry in a negative
Porter Novelli SVP Suzanne DeFrancis and VP Roger Lowe took on the
account to help improve MICA's image. "It was a wake up call to the
industry that they had to go out and show the value of their product,"
Hansen alleged that private insurers would intentionally fail to notify
borrowers when they had reached the 20% threshold so that they could
continue to collect premiums (averaging dollars 50 per month).
PN decided it had to focus on consumer benefit, so it set out to
convince borrowers that private mortgage insurance allowed them to get a
home sooner than they would if they had to pay 20% up-front.
The campaign integrated a large amount of advertising with the PR
"The theme was 'You can get into a home sooner," says DeFrancis.
Focusing on the word "sooner," PN soon transformed the theme into the
tag line "Today. Not Someday."
At the May 2000 launch, PN coordinated national advertising in major
weeklies with PR efforts aimed at the banking and insurance
The agency also aggressively sought coverage in personal finance columns
and arranged interviews with the CEOs of MICA's seven members. MICA's
lobbyists carried the message to Capitol Hill.
The PR effort continued through the summer with Op-Eds responding to
"inaccurate" characterizations of the private mortgage insurance
industry. And on October 3, PN retooled privatemi.com, which targets
consumers, and mica.com, which focuses on policymakers. Privatemi.com
now features five "calculators" that allow surfers to see the difference
between purchasing a home with private mortgage insurance versus without
As the new year began, PN expanded the campaign by launching a quarterly
newsletter, PrivateMI Perspective, aimed at 15,000 legislators,
policymakers, media and housing organizations.
More than 1,600 affiliates of nationally syndicated radio programs (such
as The Michael Savage Show, The Osgood File and Marketplace) mentioned
MICA's new image, according to PN. The agency says articles connected to
the campaign appeared in 300 publications, including the Los Angeles
Times, Baltimore's The Sun and American Banker.
Privatemi.com reportedly has received 32,000 hits (with 3,000 visits to
the mortgage calculators), while mica.com has racked up 2,500 hits.
"We're launching a new section of the Web site called the 'Online
Cancellation Kit' to help consumers get information about whether or not
they are eligible for stopping their mortgage insurance," says Jeff
Lubar, MICA director of communications. "This is like Nixon going to
China in that it's unusual for an industry to provide the public with
information on how to eliminate use of its products or services."