To Aflac, Big TV Buys Are Never Just A ‘One-Off’

While broadcast TV is still a big awareness driver for supplementary insurance brand Aflac, it’s not planned in a vacuum.

“I don’t do one-offs,” said Catherine Hernandez-Blades, chief brand and communications officer for Aflac. “I like to create an overarching strategy, and if something can’t be measured as part of a bigger umbrella strategy, it probably won’t be done.”

Aflac just launched its first commercial TV spot spearheaded by Hernandez-Blades in her new role overseeing brand strategy, advertising and marketing communications.

The goal of the TV campaign, which has digital extensions into Facebook and Twitter, is to portray the insurance provider as a comical and thoughtful companion to policyholders.

Although Aflac has previously invested in linear TV, the insurance company is starting to take a more holistic approach to its activations.

“I’m just as interested in the activations around the buy, as opposed to just the buy or the creative itself,” Hernandez-Blades said. “It’s thinking holistically about every lever you can pull throughout an activation, as opposed to just the media buy itself.”

For instance, instead of purchasing a TV spot to air during the Grammys, Aflac sponsored a series of activations around the big music tentpole.

And, rather than running just a traditional TV ad, Aflac’s iconic duck mascot walked the black carpet at a Billboard Power 100 event.

Aflac has the opposite problem of a performance marketer seeking to boost brand favorability.

While many people know the brand name Aflac, fewer know what products the company sells.

“Telling a story about what we do is just as important as who we are, because in order to move further down the sales funnel and get to consideration, you have to first do education,” Hernandez-Blades said. “Because we’re so niche, we find consumers sometimes get lost in the duck and don’t always understand the products.”

And there’s only so much education Aflac can pull off with a 30-second linear spot or a digital video activation on Hulu.

“Digital is a great platform for what I’ll call both shorter- and longer-form content and, of course, there’s a huge editorial media component,” she said. “If we can create a sense of community online where we use the duck to help educate people around our products, it helps build that credibility.”

Increasingly, Aflac’s marketing metrics have aligned with its activation strategy.

As opposed to betting on brand awareness as a key KPI, Aflac is rejiggering its benchmark for success to involve more education and conversion.

“The KPIs will be driven toward that lower part of the sales funnel,” Hernandez-Blades said. “We’ll still measure brand awareness and likability, but we want to get to consideration and conversion, and that’s a shift for us to better support sales.” 

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