Long Term Partnerships, DDB Chicago and State Farm

DDB has always and always will focus on what matters most—real people and the rapidly changing realities of life.

Paul Gunning
President and chief operating officer DDB, U.S.
 


What is the longevity of the relationship between your agency and the brand and how did this relationship begin? 

The start of DDB and State Farm’s relationship dates back to 1939 and we’ve proudly worked with the brand for almost 80 years. No one knows exactly how DDB and State Farm started working together, but it’s believed that State Farm found Needham Agency, which was later renamed DDB, in the yellow pages.

 

Tell us about the first campaign your agency worked on for the brand.

In 1939, State Farm founder George Mecherle was rallying agents to new sales heights with the battle cry of “a million or more (policies) by ’44,” and some of the first work from DDB Needham was a series of print ads to support State Farm’s goal. Some of the print ads clearly explained why consumers needed auto insurance, while others focused on the agent, who personified the company as your “Unseen Friend”—always there to explain coverage, give service, and ensure peace of mind. The work was effective: State Farm actually achieved its goal in 1943.  

 

What has been the most innovative/successful campaign created by your agency for the brand?

DDB is responsible for creating State Farm’s well-known: “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There” positioning, which was first introduced in 1971. This unique positioning capitalized on State Farm’s strengths and heritage—its agents—and distinguished the brand in the insurance category. “Like a Good Neighbor” was so relevant and strong that it became not only the brand’s expression, but its statement of purpose for decades.

Over time, the business grew and expanded into new product lines while the overall insurance category became increasingly commoditized. Communications were becoming fragmented and reactive to competitive pressure, while the impact of technology on consumers was redefining what being a good neighbor meant for a new, younger generation of consumers.

These factors were part of the business case for State Farm to make a dramatic pivot in the summer of 2016. With DDB Chicago as their partner, State Farm introduced a new brand platform—Here to Help Life Go Right. The platform positions the brand for future growth and carves out an ownable space unique to State Farm.

 

What do you identify as being the biggest change to the industry as a whole? What way do you work with the brand to keep up with the industry changes?

Customers, competitors and technology all have a way of evolving and moving forward much more quickly than brands tend to respond, so in our industry, the one constant you can count on is change. In trying to navigate change, we’ve found that having a nimble and flexible structure is the best way to succeed. We’re constantly evolving and innovating the way we work together in an effort to create focus and maximize impact for the client, our agency and ultimately consumers. We’re driving faster solutions while motivating a large enterprise to think differently about structure and flexibility.

 

What factors have enabled you both to stay in a partnership for so long?  And how do you plan on keeping this relationship going forward?

Our partnership, trust, and shared commitment to State Farm’s success remain the foundation of our relationship. Sometimes rare to find in our business, but truly special when it’s attained.

We believe that creativity is the most powerful force in business. DDB has always and always will focus on what matters most—real people and the rapidly changing realities of life.