Yesterday brought some interesting news on the general business front as insurance giant MetLife announced that it would be spinning off the U.S. retail portion of its business under the name Brighthouse Financial.
On the simplest level, this means that the company has shifted a large part of its business from a B2C model to a B2B model. As chairman/president/CEO Steven A. Kandarian put it in the press release, “Brighthouse will benefit from greater focus and more flexibility in products and operations … Our goal is to complete the separation process with both the separated business and MetLife well-positioned for success in the years to come.”
So what happens to Snoopy, who has defined the brand for decades? We hear from an inside source that he and his fellow Peanuts characters will soon disappear from all MetLife marketing campaigns. Quite a few media outlets have pondered the future of the relationship between the cartoon dog and the insurance giant, with Bloomberg asking “Who gets the dog in the divorce?” back in February.
A MetLife spokesperson declined to elaborate on the status of that relationship today beyond telling us that the company would be reconsidering its various partnerships moving forward.
While the current contract between the two parties ends in 2020, we have very good reason to believe that the two will part ways well before that date arrives. A month ago, the always-reliable New York Post (which did predict Adweek’s acquisition but got the end result totally wrong by predicting that we would be bought by MediaPost, of all people) noted that “MetLife has started leaving the ‘Peanuts’ characters off marketing materials sent to clients” and that a related “branding center” was recently “dismantled.”
Here’s what we heard back in March from a source within the company’s marketing department: “Met started advertising with the Peanuts in 1984. They’re done with the Peanuts now. It’s over.”
According to this source, insurance advisors had never cared for the Snoopy association, which they said made them feel “silly” even though consumers obviously made a connection. “Internally, we’re already getting ready to wash all of our collateral materials to get rid of Snoopy,” the source wrote in March, adding, “I think it’s a mistake” a la Chick-fil-A’s decision to move away from its signature cows.
The major precipitating factor here was MetLife’s decision to hire Esther Lee, formerly of AT&T and Coke, as its global CMO in late 2014. According to pretty much everyone, Lee does not believe the Peanuts partnership to be worth the investment despite the fact that related expenses amount to “a drop in the bucket” for a company that earned more than $5 billion last year.
On the creative agency side, San Francisco’s Argonaut won the MetLife business (which had been with CP+B) last September after a review — but that agency has not pushed out any subsequent work that we’ve seen since hiring creative directors Shane Fleming and Anders Gustafsson to lead the account back in March.
The spokesperson told us that MetLife worked with a consultancy to develop the Brighthouse name and that it has yet to determine whether it will reach out to creative agencies for work on that brand moving forward.
According to our source, MetLife’s new branding work will arrive in late summer or early fall. And it won’t have anything to do with a certain albino beagle.