iSelect marketer on mishaps and moving agencies

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 16 October 2018
Warren Hebard

When top marketer Warren Hebard joined iSelect six months ago he was tasked with correcting what he describes as a “marketing mishap” which led the brand to lose focus on how it communicated its value to consumers.

Hebard's tenure started after iSelect CEO Scott Wilson's resignation and the departure of CMO Geraldine Davys, and he quickly announced bold plans to shake-up the brand’s marketing and customer strategy. Hebard had form in this regard having done the same in previous roles at William Hill and Tom Waterhouse.

In his first three months, Hebard dropped The Royals without a pitch and appointed Fenton Stephens – his previous creative agency at William Hill and an agency he worked at between 2005-2010 before switching to client side.

“The Royals are capable of doing great work, but when you get a bad brief, you usually can’t get to a great end result. I don’t place blame The Royals,” he revealed to AdNews.

“We gave The Royals the opportunity to pitch on the new brief, but they couldn’t crack it, so we parted ways. I chose not to run a pitch process, mainly because of time constraints, but also because the team at Fenton Stephens nailed the idea.”

The campaign, by Fenton Stephens, saw iSelect returns to its comedic roots and reintroduce a brand ambassador in ‘The Billusionist’ - a flamboyant magician that makes big bills disappear.

Fenton Stephen's iSelect work

iSelect’s longest-running campaign, from 2010 to 2016, was delivered by AJF Partnership and fronted by Mr iSelect, performed by actor Jason Geary. Leo Burnett's won the business from AJF Partnership in 2016 and scrapped Mr iSelect for a new direction.

Hebard said The Billusionist is a “contemporary articulation” of Mr iSelect.

“Mr iSelect was a winning formula for the brand which is why we’ve gone back to what is really the DNA of the brand, including the original brand positioning and the original tone of voice,” Hebart said.

While the orange branding and ‘Compare. Select. Save' tagline, are returning, the messaging will be more price focused than in previous years, Hebard explained.

“We’re certainly focused on delivering sales and ROI. This brand has an amazing amount of brand equity being the market leader in the comparison space by a long way, so I’ve inherited 18 years of great work,” he said.

“We don’t have an awareness problem but with some of the missteps in marketing, there was a lack of focus around return on investment, which in my previous role was intense because of the level of competition. That’s the discipline we’re bringing into the business here.”

Jason Geary for iSelect

Hebard has refocused the marketing team and the wider business on revenue generation, including key metrics such as cost-per-acquisition, volume of sales, and marketing as a percentage of revenue.

Hebard has a sharp eye on measurability and only working with mediums that will drive sales for iSelect, which at this stage, doesn’t include investment in outdoor.

“I inherited an outdoor buy when I first joined the business, which when we saw running, wasn’t delivering any ROI for us. This doesn’t mean outdoor is not a great medium, but maybe it’s not right for our business - being an e-commerce business,” Hebard said.

“It wasn’t performing for us from an ROI perspective and brand building isn’t required at this point of time for the business.

“I see every media as having to be measured to produce ROI, which is why we are running across TV, radio and digital. In a nutshell, we want to drive sales.”

On the media side, Maxus, now Wavemaker, has worked with iSelect since 2014.

Hebard said instead of appointing a new media agency, he worked with Maxus to renegotiate the remuneration model.

As a result of lowering trading expectations, with iSelect dramatically revising its underlying EBIT expectations down to $8 million-$12 million (for the year to 30 June 2018) from an original guidance figure of $26 million, Hebard said he had to make significant steps to reduce costs.

The company blamed weaker market conditions, including a softening in the health and energy and telco verticals, as reasons for the revised forecast.

“Particularly around media, there was a mis-weighting of agency spend to total media spend. We’ve had discussions, and ended a lot of smaller agency relationships, and ultimately renegotiated our terms with Maxus [Wavemaker] and the working model going forward.”

Working with four agencies over the last four years, consistency is another key focus for iSelect with Fenton Stephens and Wavemaker in place.

“We see The Billusionist as a platform to build on and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel again,” he said.

“iSelect is an amazing brand in how resilient it’s been while we’ve been managing the changes. Now the customers get to see those changes. Being a market leader in terms of awareness and consideration certainly has its benefits when you’re resetting things."

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