IQ News: MSN Ad Offering Targets Insurers

Microsoft today unveils its MSN Insurance Initiative, three new advertising packages targeted specifically for the insurance industry. The Initiative has three categories of packages tied to content on the network of sites.
Three advertisers have already signed on: Allstate Insurance in North Brook, Ill. and Columbus, Ohio-based firms Ohio Casualty Group and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance.
Life insurance providers can tie into the MoneyCentral personal finance service; auto insurers can avail themselves of content on’s CarPoint, and purveyors of insurance for homeowners’ and renters’ will find a home on the HomeAdvisor real estate service.
“The sponsorships go throughout the sites,” said Bob Bejan, director of global and strategic account development. “It’s like an upside-down pyramid. At the top is run-of-site banners, then, as people get closer to the decision point, the content becomes more the partner’s. Our partners’ presence increases as audience interest increases.”
All packages include a front-page link, one or more buttons on appropriate pages, run-of-network and targeted banners, and content modules within Money 2000, Microsoft’s off-the-shelf software product.
The packages are priced at a flat rate with a one-year term; Bejan would not disclose the cost. He said, “We made our case based on the quality of our sites and our ability to deliver impressions. Everybody respects that.”
“Our goal is to provide the high-tech advantages to our customers who choose to use the Internet and meld that with the high-touch service provided by a State Farm agent,” said State Farm representative Joe Johnson. Users are directed to information about insurance products and can then e-mail an agent in their area who will follow-up with a phone call. (Johnson said the “vast majority” of his company’s agents have e-mail.) State Farm also advertises on AutoWeb and InsWeb, and maintains its own presence at
Ohio Casualty director of marketing Bill Minor said the CarPoint site fits both prongs of its Web advertising strategy. “We’re looking at two kinds of portals,” he said. “Dominant portals have high consumer reach and large page views. A dominant trigger moment site targets the consumer’s need at a key decision point. CarPoint is a strategic fit because it doubles as both.”
Each content category is limited to three advertisers; however, Bejan said some advertisers have taken slots in more than one category. “It’s a hybrid of exclusivity,” he explained. “We tried to give people a sense of ownership of the section.” To that end, only one advertiser appears as a sponsor in any single user session. According to Bejan, “It’s the sum total of everything we’ve learned. Advertisers don’t want to be in a logo war.”