The Hartford cleans up potholes in auto insurance pitch

The Hartford Financial Services Group wanted to raise awareness as it rolled out a new consumer auto insurance product in five markets.

Company: The Hartford
Campaign: The Hartford 's Commute Uninterrupted
PR Team: The Hartford ( Hartford , CT ) and MM2 Public Relations ( Dallas , TX )
Duration: June 2009 – December 2009
Budget: $135,000 (out of pocket)

The Hartford Financial Services Group wanted to raise awareness as it rolled out a new consumer auto insurance product in five markets. David Snowden, assistant VP of property and casualty media relations, explains that the company hadn't recently been proactive in product PR for the auto side of the business, and wanted a campaign that aligned with new companywide “Life Uninterrupted” brand positioning that launched early last year.

MM2 Public Relations won the account in February 2009 with its “Commute Uninterrupted” concept, which Snowden says was most closely aligned with the overall repositioning. A GfK Roper survey (commissioned by The Hartford) found that potholes are a major frustration for commuting drivers. Thus, the team devised “The Hartford” Pothole Patrol” to help fill potholes in the five markets.

“The campaign fulfilled a consumer need in a meaningful way, and provided a lot of opportunity to increase awareness of The Hartford and our auto products,” Snowden adds.

The survey results were used as media hooks. For the Pothole Patrol element, the team partnered with city governments and the company provided funds and branding for trucks that filled potholes.

“We laid the groundwork with the cities by taking the research to them,” explains Annette Rogers, EVP and client service director for MM2. “Given budget cuts, the partnership made a lot of sense.”

Snowden adds that the City Council approval process automatically attracted local media attention, helping prime the markets.

Survey data was benchmarked nationally and compared to local market data to generate media interest.

Pothole filling events kicked off the campaign in each market The Hartford was visiting: Hartford, Phoenix, Tucson, and two Chicago suburbs— Aurora and Evanston.

In addition, housed a page for each city, where local residents could view a map and photos of local potholes, vote on the worst, and tell their own pothole horror stories.

The team also used The Hartford's existing Facebook and Twitter pages to spread the word and report event updates.

Snowden reports that the campaign contributed to an increase of more than 300% in new auto insurance business in Arizona (the benchmark state) in 2009 compared to 2008.

The Web site drew nearly 7,000 visitors total, and The Hartford has 964 Twitter followers and 1,371 Facebook fans.

More than 11 million impressions were garnered in local outlets and in national outlets such as USA Today.

“The Hartford is certainly more committed to PR in the auto insurance arena,” Snowden says.

The Hartford and MM2 are continuing the program in new markets throughout 2010 and looking for crossover opportunities with other marketing programs.

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