Insurance Firm Tests Privacy-Focused Ad

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Based on its belief that privacy is a major consumer concern, insurance and financial services company Pacific Life began a print advertising campaign devoted to its privacy practices rather than its products and services.

The ad, which ran in the Wall Street Journal this month, featured a headline that said "Our commitment to your privacy." Beneath the headline were three of its data practices: Pacific Life does not sell customer data to any third party, it does not share information with affiliates for marketing purposes and it uses information only to service its clients.

The ad even takes a swipe at firms that let affiliates use customer data for telemarketing. In relation to its own affiliates, the Pacific Life ad said, "They won't be calling you at dinner trying to sell you something that you didn't ask for."

Though the policies outlined in the ad have always been in place, a company executive said, the firm recently decided to use those policies as the focus of the ad based on the premise that privacy is increasingly important to consumers.

"We have grown aware in recent years that our privacy practices are fairly unique in the financial services marketplace," said Bob Haskell, senior vice president of public affairs for Pacific Life, Newport Beach, CA. "For those consumers who value privacy -- most consumers in our experience -- we considered that our practices might prove to be a unique selling proposition, as worthy of mention as our other attributes of performance, persistence and financial strength."

Though Pacific Life is regulated under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1999, its practices go beyond what the law requires and did so prior to the law's implementation, Haskell said.

Under GLB, financial institutions must disclose privacy policies regarding nonpublic personal information with affiliates and third parties. They also must provide notice to consumers and a chance to opt out of sharing such data with nonaffiliated third parties.

As the Pacific Life ad states, "We won't ask you to opt in or out of anything, because we will only use your information to fulfill our commitment to you."

When asked whether Pacific Life thought that consumers cared more about privacy than price, Haskell said the two are not mutually exclusive.

"We believe that privacy is becoming increasingly important to consumers and may soon become a deciding factor in the buying process," he said.

As for the campaign's success, Haskell said it was too early to tell.

"We received a modest number of calls expressing support for the ad and its message," he said.

No other privacy-based campaigns are in the works, but they are a possibility for the future depending on the results of this endeavor, Haskell said.

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