MetLife Wants a New Lead Creative Agency to Reinvent Its ‘Slow and Steady’ Brand

Incumbent Crispin won't defend

MetLife, under the direction of new global CMO Esther Lee, said it wants to reinvent the brand with a new U.S. ad agency capable of transforming "a slow and steady, U.S.-focused life insurer to a top-tier global, diversified financial services company."

The budget for brand marketing and b-to-b advertising is more than $50 million annually, according to MetLife's agency RFP.

Incumbent Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which has taken the lead on creative and media planning for MetLife since its last review in 2010, is not participating. Select Resources International is managing the search, and initial RFP responses are due by Friday. A final decision is expected at the end of June.

MetLife, a New York-based financial services company, also works with MEC for media buying; Merkle for acquisition digital media and digital media; and Van Wagner Communications for sponsorships and event marketing. The work at those companies is not part of the current review process, according to the RFP.

Former Euro RSCG agency exec Lee, who joined MetLife in January after holding top marketing jobs at AT&T and Coca-Cola, is conducting the review with other decision makers, and fellow agency vets, at the company: Richard Hong, svp, global brand and marketing, and Michael Stefanski, vp, U.S. brand and marketing. MetLife will cut to a shortlist of six shops for initial agency meetings April 23-27.

The RFP acknowledges that "MetLife has not previously been a marketing-driven organization" and underscored that everything related to its communications and media strategy "is on the table for reassessment and evolution."

Among the issues: Too much of the company's overall budget is tied up in significant investment commitments like licensing fees for the company's signature Peanuts' spokescharacters, PGA Tour sponsorship, and blimp program, leaving less for working media, which is "significantly lower than it should be" in the U.S.

Too much of existing media is weighted toward TV, and there's not enough of a connection between brand efforts, digital acquisition initiatives and The RFP describes the company's digital operations as "critically underleveraged," and is going through a global redesign from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which should be ready in the fourth quarter.

In looking for a fresh approach, the company also noted: "Most insurance brands and their messages seem stuck in the 1950s, with key themes of family, duty, financial strength and fear" and "often speak in euphemism and rarely mention the products being sold, or the true benefits offered."

Reps at MetLife could not immediately be reached; a CP+B exec declined to comment.

(UPDATE: A spokesperson tells AgencySpy: "MetLife is currently reviewing its roster of marketing partners. We expect to finalize our decision this summer.")

The last review, which awarded the business to CP+B, included finalists Euro RSCG (now Havas Worldwide) and then-incumbent Young & Rubicam, both of New York.

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