Modern Marketing

How Policygenius’ NYC subway ads increased insurance sales by fifty percent with Jonathan Metrick

  • Policygenius got a lot of attention for its subway poetry takeovers.
  • Head of marketing Jonathan Metrick joins us to talk about offline in a digital world.
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How Policygenius’ NYC subway ads increased insurance sales by fifty percent with Jonathan Metrick

We’re experimenting with an interesting new series on the podcast called Marketing Talk. We’re talking to top finance and fintech marketers sitting on the front lines of their business, hustling to bring in the next cohort of customers. As much as TechCrunch makes this stuff look easy, it isn’t and we want to hear from marketers — in their own words — what’s working for them, how they’re structuring their teams, and what channels are delivering.

I’m excited for this series and first up is Jonathan Metrick, head of marketing at Policygenius. If you ride the New York City subway like I do, for sure you’ve noticed last year when the usual poetry public service ads started promoting insurance and PolicyGenius. It did tick off a lot of New Yorkers but it won awards and contributed to a 100% lift in the business.

Jonathan talks about that campaign and also why he prefers to run campaigns in-house and not via an agency. He describes his commitment to content marketing and the impact its had on the insurance marketplace’s business. I hope you enjoy the show.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Had anyone ever told you that you have the best name for a marketer?

Thanks, I have heard that once or twice.

What’s your background?

I’ve been leading up marketing teams in the startup space for years  but Policygenius is my first fintech or insurtech. In general, the transition has been pretty seamless. At the end of the day, marketing is about trying to connect consumers with a product that they want and getting that in front of them in a creative way.

Has being an industry outsider been an advantage for your marketing?

Interestingly, it’s a bit of an asset to come from outside the insurance industry, especially for life insurance (one of our biggest verticals). Frequently, when consumers start shopping for life insurance, they haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about the category, either. It’s a benefit to come in new to the industry, so you don’t get caught up in the jargon, because consumers aren’t thinking that way anyway.

You’ve got to whittle it down to easy-to-understand terms. You have that perspective when you come from outside the industry.

How do you measure success for you and your marketing team?

We’re very metrics-driven. We track in terms of growth. We’re a fast-moving, high growth company. There are a lot of people out there looking for insurance. We’ve been around for about four years and we’re just focused on helping consumers navigate and shop for new insurance. If we’ve done a good job with that, they’ll end up buying through us.

Do you make a distinction between online and offline marketing?

Our core consumer set is 30 to 50 years old. They’re very comfortable shopping online. They shop for flights with Kayak. They use Amazon to buy their daily goods. They look for something similar when it comes to insurance. They start shopping for insurance with Google. There’s a lot of digital, online research they’ll do. We’re mindful about being present where and when consumers shop for insurance.

We’re very present on Google and Facebook and other digital channels. More recently, we’re focusing on out of home advertising, like on the subway, bridging online and offline.

What’s this subway campaign?

Last winter, we did a full rebrand of Policygenius and ran our “It’s a thing” campaign. It was a multi-city, out of home campaign with outdoor advertising, including subway takeovers. The piece that got the most attention in our subway takeovers was our poetry — we did a little bit of a play on the poetry that New Yorkers are used to seeing commuting on the subway.

We got a lot of positive attention for it. We were covered in Bloomberg and Adweek. We won the Creative Work of the Week from The Drum. We also got negative reaction, too. Net net, we were very happy with the response. We grew customers by over 50 percent during the campaign window. So, we’re looking to do a similar campaign this winter.

Where did the idea come from?

We do everything in house at Policygenius. It’s a bit of combination between our CEO, our creative director and marketing team. It was very much a nod to commuters in New York. They frequently see poetry on the trains. We wanted to break through the clutter. There are a lot of place to look to distract yourself. Poetry is a bit of a longer form and we had some fun with it.

Why not use an agency? Why do everything in house?

I began my career at Procter and Gamble, a really traditional big business/big agency model. Doing agency work in house has a variety of benefits. So, there’s the cost piece. You can save the (up to) 30 percent agency markup and you can reinvest that into a bigger media spend.

But more than that, the turnaround times and iteration cycles can be a lot faster. If you have the same folks in the room, constantly working on the same brand, you can get a lot more done. We’re a startup and constantly testing new ideas. Having the same people who help set strategy, track the business, and creating the creative work in the same building at the same meetings — creates a faster creative environment where you can roll out cool ideas in a pretty quick period of time.

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