Two analysts at Nomura Equity Research published statistics on advertising spend and premium growth Friday, reinforcing a conclusion they advanced late last year—that dollars spent on advertising drive more growth than payments to personal lines agents.
Referring to a chart topped by the biggest advertiser in the U.S. personal auto insurance world, GEICO, with just over $935 million in advertising costs, analysts Clifford Gallant and Matthew Rohrmann refer to the Berkshire Hathaway company as a “growth machine.”
According to the data the Nomura analysts have compiled for 10 personal auto insurers ranked by advertising spend, GEICO and Liberty Mutual were the only two to book double-digit growth in direct premiums last year.
For GEICO, direct premiums written grew 11.2 percent, while the top 10 overall grew 5.7 percent.
Liberty, ranked sixth in advertising spend ($197.0 million), and its personal lines premiums grew 10.7 percent in 2013, according to Nomura tabulations based on company reports, A.M. Best data, Kanter Media and Nomura research.
Nomura notes that in addition materially growing its advertising budget in 2013—reflected in ad spend dollars that jumped 9.7 percent—Liberty has been active in the M&A space to growth its market.
Although GEICO spent more than $300 million more on advertising than any one of the next three on the list—Allstate, State Farm Mutual, and Progressive—GEICO’s ad spending was virtually flat compared to 2012 according to Nomura’s figures ($935.1 million in 2013 versus $933.4 million in 2013).
Progressive, in contrast, spent 18.7 percent more on advertising in 2013 than in 2012 ($604.2 million versus $508.9 million), while its direct premiums grew just 6.5 percent.
Back in October 2013, when Gallant and Rohrmann previously tackled the subject, they wrote: “Progressive is saddled with a legacy agency business that absorbs dollars that could produce greater return in ad spend and lower prices” in a note titled, “PGR Losing the Race to GEICO” (referring to Progressive by its stock ticker symbol).
In the more recent report published on Friday, the analysts note that large mutual companies, including State Farm and Farmers, have also an edge over companies like Progressive and Travelers in that the mutual can be more aggressive on pricing and bundling discounts because the mutual “are not beholden to shareholder return expectations.”