Unitrin Tests East Coast Waters With Pa. Car Insurance Campaign

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Unitrin Direct Auto Insurance is testing direct response and mail efforts in Pennsylvania in an attempt to expand along the East Coast.

The company dropped direct mail pieces in November and is following up with additional mailers this month. Also, direct response TV ads are running this month in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia markets.

If the Pennsylvania effort proves successful, Unitrin Direct will begin marketing efforts in other East Coast states in which it is currently seeking regulatory approval to sell insurance.

Unitrin Direct, Vista, CA, will seek to offer auto insurance in areas where its parent company, Unitrin Inc., lacks agents. The companies hope direct marketing will create a presence in states they cannot currently reach.

The mailers and TV ads invite consumers to call Unitrin Direct's toll-free number or visit its Web site, www.unitrindirect.com, to purchase insurance. A call center, which is staffed by approximately 25 agents, has been established at the company's headquarters to handle phone orders.

Three mailers, two of which used No. 10 envelopes while the third was a self-mailer, were tested in November. Unitrin Direct also is testing six TV ads. The company said fewer than 1 million mailers have been dropped thus far.

Unitrin Direct is investing primarily in TV advertising, spending roughly $3 on DRTV for every $1 spent on the direct mail campaign.

According to Marc Zeitlin, senior vice president of marketing at Unitrin Direct, DRTV ads have traditionally produced impressive results in Pennsylvania. He also said Pennsylvania is an attractive testing ground for the campaign because the state has regulations favorable to the insurance industry and higher-than-average premiums compared with many states.

Unitrin Direct has targeted "preferred" drivers -- those who have good driving records -- in the direct mail campaign.

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