Progressive Goes Into Review

Progressive Insurance has placed its planned $70 million account into review, ending a brief relationship with New York’s Arnell Group Brand Consulting.
Sources said the client is contacting shops in the Southwest, East and Midwest to handle a greater load of direct response television and direct mail chores. The client is expected to nearly double its estimated 1998 budget of $30-40 million.
Arnell chairman Peter Arnell said the Cleveland-based auto insurance company was looking for an agency with direct marketing capabilities–something his shop does not offer. “We had the assignment of [building] awareness,” Arnell said. “That was the objective.”
But Progressive officials, who could not be reached for comment, stated in a request for proposal obtained by Adweek that they were dissatisfied with that brand presence. “Although growing, consumer awareness of Progressive is still low,” the document states. Arnell was hired last August to succeed Publicis & Hal Riney in Chicago.
Arnell’s work included a poorly received Super Bowl halftime spot featuring the E.T. movie character. The succeeding agency must work with the alien, since Progressive is committed to using it as part of a “long-term relationship” established with Amblin Entertainment and Universal Studios, the rfp states. The client also plans to retain Arnell’s “Be progressive” tagline.
Progressive, the nation’s fifth-largest auto insurer, is moving quickly by requiring agencies to submit credentials by today. The client will hold capabilities meetings the next two weeks before it assigns a project, presumably to finalists. Client marketing director David Pratt is spearheading the review.
The insurer plans to spend $50 million on 1999 broadcast buys and $20 million on direct mail and sports sponsorships. –with Trevor Jensen