U.S. Life insurers are expected to budget about $4.2 billion for advertising and marketing in 2017, a 12 percent increase over last year, according to a recent survey.
Social media, internet marketing and radio and television notch the largest gains in the survey.
In 2017, on average, budgeted advertising for television and radio is expected to reach $1 billion, up from $866 million in 2016. Direct marketing budgets are also expected to reach $1 billion, up from $942 million in 2016, according to the report.
Internet marketing budgets will reach an estimated $563 million from $490 million last year. Social media budgets are rising to $381 million from $301 million last year, and for mobile marketing, to $179 million from $151 million, the report said.
Only print channel advertising budgets will decline -- from $678 million to $667 million, the report found.
“We’re in a digital world,” said Samantha Chow, author of the report titled “Life Insurance: Trends in U.S. Marketing and Advertising Spend,” published earlier this month by the Boston-based consulting firm Aite Group.
The report is based on a June 2016 survey of 18 senior executives at life and annuity companies, and on data provided by 10 life insurers. Chow extrapolated the data to estimate projected advertising and marketing budgets across the life insurance and annuity industry.
The data offer clues as to which distribution channels insurance companies are likely to invest in the most in 2017 and beyond as insurers struggle to keep pace with the proliferation of distribution and sales channels in a rapidly evolving “omnichannel” world.
Over a five-year span ending in 2020, the life insurance industry is expected to boost advertising and marketing budgets 49 percent to $5.6 billion from $3.7 billion in 2016, to encourage sales through seven different distribution channels, Chow’s report found.
Investments in Online, Direct Channels
The 12 percent year-over-year increase in advertising budgets in 2017 mirrors the growth of new infrastructure investments life insurers are making in direct response television (DRTV), online lead generation and online direct channels.
Over the next two years, 22 percent of 18 surveyed insurance companies expect to add direct response television (DRTV) channels, 11 percent expect to add online lead generation and 6 percent will add online direct channels, Chow said.
In the DRTV channel, any television advertising that beckons a consumer to respond directly through an 800 number or to visit the insurer’s website is considered a direct response. Only 33 percent of insurers said they use DRTV now.
Online lead generation, which is used by 72 percent of life insurers, refers to interest by a consumer in a life insurance product generated through the Internet.
Online direct, used by 83 percent of life insurance companies, refers to email blasts that people click through to get to the site of life insurance company or an agent.
Compared with print and traditional direct mail channels, DRTV, online lead generation and online direct channels are relatively new to life insurance and require new marketing dollars. It makes sense that advertising budgets for these channels are rising by larger percentages.
ROI Difficult to Calculate
Digital marketing budgets, which include paying for social media marketing, have seen some of the greatest year-over-year budgeting gains. But social media marketing outlays start from a relatively low base.
A small dollar increase in social media ad spending can lead to disproportionate gains compared with spending in other channels, Chow said.
Calculating the return on the advertising dollar spent on social media, however, is very difficult. Insurers are going to have to learn the hard way – through trial and error – what promotional strategies work, and how to account for the return on their advertising and marketing dollars.
A life insurance prospect might learn about a life insurance policy through a friend on Facebook, then conduct a search on the Internet before finally buying and binding the coverage through an agent, Chow said.
At every step, it’s easy to pivot into a buyer. From the perspective of tracking the effectiveness of the advertising dollar, it’s difficult to track when a customer’s journey begins and where and how it ultimately results in a sale, Chow wrote.
By contrast, using a simple bar code in a direct mail print campaign makes it easier for insurers to link an ad dollar spent on the mailer and justify an increase or decrease in advertising spending.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at email@example.com.
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