IAG CMO: Embrace the power of art and science

Chief marketing officer reflects on his first year client-side as NRMA launches its new emotionally driven brand campaign in time for Christmas

Still from the new NRMA Insurance ad, Long Road
Still from the new NRMA Insurance ad, Long Road

Learning the power of art coupled with science has been one of the biggest lessons in 2017 for IAG CMO, Brent Smart.

Speaking on his first-year experiences as the marketing leader for the insurance giant since relocating from Saatchi & Saatchi and a 20-year career agency-side, Smart said the learning curve going client-side has been steep, but also rewarding. A big part of it has been understanding how science can inform the creativity of marketing.

“It’s not ‘and’ not ‘or’ – marketing is certainly not a science. You can’t science your way to ideas like the fearless girl, that beautiful statue in New York, or a John Lewis Christmas ad or the lamb campaign,” he told guests at this year’s IAB Christmas gathering in Sydney. “It takes a leap of creativity, guts from a marketer, and art.

“That said, what I’ve found is all the things I intuitively believe – like the power of emotion, brand and longer-term formats – is playing out through the science. We have undertaken serious media attribution at IAG and it all confirms the things I’ve intuitively believed about marketing. So I now have the courage and conviction and science to back me up.

“I encourage others to embrace and respect the science. But it isn’t the only answer and you won’t science your way to greatness.”

Read more: Exclusive: IAG, Columbus debate digital advertising measurement pitfalls and perils

Smart’s comments came as he launches his first brand campaign for NRMA Insurance in partnership with new creative agency, The Monkeys. The new 2-minute film, entitled ‘Long Way’, is designed to inspire drivers to take extra care behind the wheel during the festive season by telling the story of a young girl, whose grandparents make a journey to surprise her on Christmas day because she misses them.

Smart said the new brand campaign signals the new direction he’s looking to take the NRMA brand in. The film goes live on 10 December across broadcast, cinema, customer and social media channels and features music by singer-songwriter, Tom Odell.

“This is a return to the type of storytelling and tone of voice that has made the NRMA Insurance brand loved,” he said.

The new campaign is being supported with a new mobile app, called Safer Journeys, designed to motivate drivers to switch off their mobile phones while driving.

For Smart, it’s the power of creativity that really helps the more staid and “boring” industry sectors, such as insurance, banking, telecommunications and supermarkets, find a connection with customers, and he said creativity can make a massive difference.  

“There is no such thing as low-involvement products, just low-involvement marketing,” he said. “I believe that in our category, marketing is our main point of difference.”

Smart said he felt liberated now he was the client to take risks and be brave.

Read more: IAG CMO: Get an unfair share of culture by learning from Trump

“I spent 20 years trying to convince clients to say yes to things they invariably say no to that they should be saying yes to, and now I’m the guy that can say yes,” he said.  “It’s daunting, but also liberating. I can make stuff happen, have a vision and see it through.”

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