After a setback earlier in the year that saw Confused.com face a ban from the advertising watchdog for a misleading car savings claim, chief marketing officer Paul Troy is stepping it up a gear to prove to its rivals that having one focus is better than diluting your brand.
The price comparison site has signed James Corden for another 12 months and has revealed a new ad which storylines its evolution from a site that offered many products to one that pivoted around one service - saving drivers money.
The 40-second spot is the fifth in the series featuring Corden. It opens on a traffic jam caused by sheep in the road, as Corden and his friend (who features in every ad) pull up in the classic Mercedes car. Corden says “Oh sheep!”, the first of many sheep-related puns to come out of the campaign, before stepping out of the car and attempting to shepherd the flock by reasoning with them, and making barking noises. Frustrated, he throws his hands into the air and proclaims “Come on, what do I have to do?”, at which point the flock splits perfectly down the middle - like the parting of the waves.
“I’m the sheep whisperer,” he says, as the cars drive through.
There’s also a 10-second teaser ad which has been running on TV throughout the week, in which Corden faces off against Maria the sheep, who incidentally has her own Twitter account.
The ad is intended to act as an evolution of the ‘Drivers Win’ marketing strategy the brand first unveiled last year, which saw Corden ‘win’ his way through various driving dilemmas, like getting green lights in a row, or the perfect parallel park. This time, he is helping other drivers ‘win’, and in the next ad, Troy says it is going to step up again.
“Now we have established the idea, we’re racking it up. We’re going bigger, much bigger. When you see the next one you will be gobsmacked,” he said.
Troy calls Confused the “challenger brand” in the industry, the one that “zags” where others “zig”. It’s why the brand was one of the first to strike a partnership with traffic navigation app Waze, which will see drivers who are stationary for 10 seconds or more served with the brand’s latest ad.
“Waze are on our radar, they won't be on a generic price comparison radar because we are looking at how we can save drivers time and money,” he said.
To create maximum impact for the new ad the brand will for the first time be top and tailing ad breaks with 40-second and 10-second versions of the ad. On Monday (2nd October) it is launching a first-view campaign so the second tweet each person in the UK sees when they log into Twitter will be a Confused ad. It has also invested £500k in a press campaign which includes a reverse T-shaped ad in The Metro, The Times, The Telegraph and The Sun, and sponsorship of Drivetime across the Heart Network.
The ad is scored by A Town Called Malice by The Jam to add to the British feel of the ad. Music is “important” to Troy, but more important is having a strong ad with a strong message that can stand on its own.
“Some people just have music but the ad is pretty poor. It's like you need a track to rescue it, here it is enhancing it. If you rely totally on music, then good luck with that,” he said.
Don’t let an opera singer get you down
While it might have jumped the gun last year when its December ad - in which claimed it was ‘the number one for car savings’ in the price comparison sector - was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making a misleading claim, Troy’s confidence has not been tarnished. On the contrary, the ban has given him more of an appetite to prove his competitors wrong. It was, after all, rival GoCompare who complained about the ad.
“Marketers get hung on a claim,” he said. “It is a competitive aggressive industry. Years ago it used to be the cola wars, now it is the price comparison wars.”
Troy revealed he was “genuinely surprised” by the outcome of the ruling after receiving only one complaint, while at the same time MoneySupermarket’s ad - which was recently crowned the most complained about ad in 2017 with 455 complaints - is “still on TV”.
Complaints are always such a bad thing, though: “I said internally I expected a complaint, because if something annoys people then it is working. If you are doing stuff and it is irrelevant then people don't complain.”
While Troy believes the campaign was “working effectively” without the claim, it might not be the end of the ‘number one’ spot. Confused.com has continued on its mission to build the most products available to drivers, and has extended this into car finance - which it claims to be the only site offering such products. With that in mind, Troy hints he “may come back to it [the number one claim] again”.
“I think we will be even stronger,” he said, as he outlined his ambition to boost the proportion of people who do car insurance on price comparison sites from 67% to 88% (since there are always 12% who don’t have wifi or don’t go online).
Is he expecting any complaints from this ad, for its biblical imagery perhaps?
"No because it is just a bit of fun," Troy said. "He’s not a saviour, he’s just the sheep whisperer. I definitely wouldn't want to upset the religious brigade. But something tells me it won’t have the same effect the twerking has."
'I’m hoping to get as much cut through as the KFC chicken'
He believes having a memorable animal in an ad helps with recall, like the chicken in KFC’s ‘The Whole Chicken’ spot, which Troy believes was “brilliant” because it “sparked debate”.
“Good advertising people relate to, but they also remember it. I think the sheep will help recall. People remember a meerkat for god’s sake, and an opera singer - why can’t James have a sheep,” he said.
“It is less in your face than the chicken, but I’m hoping to get as much cut through as it,” he added.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing: “Shooting with animals is a fucking nightmare, when we were shooting one of the sheep jumped out of this area they were penned into. I didn't realise sheep could jump - but when one of them did two or three of them followed,” Troy said.
Consistency, too, is important in aiding with ad recall, Troy believes, which price comparison sites have been betting on for years by creating icons out of their central characters. In this vein, it's key to Confused’s consistency that they signed Corden for another year, whom Troy believes is the “best option in terms of being somebody that can rally drivers around us”.
“If someone didn’t want to work with you they would ask a stupid price or they would walk away. He has enjoyed working with us and this recent ad shows that,” he said.