In the brutal battle for customers and attention, advertising is everything for insurance brands, particularly price comparison websites (PCWs). They spend tens of millions each year on TV, radio and online adverts, not to mention the production and agency costs of creating the campaigns in the first place.

The difficulty PCWs face is how to stand apart and be chosen when the service they offer is, on the surface, so similar.  

At the core of all PCWs’ promise is assistance in navigating the offering of many brands. Enter your details once, get a quote from many, compare the quotes for price or cover. It’s why 87% of motorists who shopped around at renewal used a PCW. 

With car insurance premiums up 16% a year, this service is more valuable than ever. 

Whatever the giveaway or jingle, delivering on the core promise to consumers has to be front and centre. And given that promise is to cut through noise, the marketing claims message has to be transparent and truthful. 

That’s why all brands should sit up and take notice of the Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling on Confused last week. The regulator banned a series of adverts, including a TV segment with James Corden, because of claims that the PCW was Number 1 for car savings.

Confused argued it was referring to opportunities to save, referencing that its services span far wider than insurance, including airport parking and petrol costs for example. 

But the regulator largely sided with a challenge from GoCompare, ruling that "No.1 for car savings" would generally be understood by consumers to mean that they were likely to save more money by using versus its competitors.

The ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form and told Confused not to state or imply that consumers were likely to save more money by using their site instead of their competitors’ unless that claim could be substantiated.  While there was no fine on this occasion, there will be a real cost for Confused in terms of removing or amending the ads. 

The whole incident is a shame for the sector. Confused has clearly done a tremendous amount of work to develop its proposition to be all things to motorists, beyond insurance. That is a valuable service.

The takeaway message for all brands should be the importance of substantiating each claim, and being specific about what it is you’re actually claiming. And then testing it with consumers to make sure what your marketing team thinks the message is matches what your target audience hear. Interestingly, GoCompare used a form of substantiation in reverse – by commissioning research with over 1,000 consumers to forcefully make the point that its rival’s message would be interpreted in a certain way. 

A report published this week by the Institute of Customer Service highlighted once again how far insurance has to go. Customer satisfaction with insurance companies has fallen by 0.5 points in the last six months. It’s not the lowest score overall – transport and utilities companies did worse for example – but its decline was the sharpest across all 13 sectors analysed.  

The good news is the opportunity to verify claims is as easy as it’s ever been, with more data collected about customer journeys than ever before. Anything that builds trust and robustly proves the brand’s claim can only be a good thing in a sector which consumers generally continue to mistrust.

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