Allstate Said to Hire GM’s LaNeve as Chief Marketing Officer
By Doron Levin and Jamie McGee
Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) — Allstate Corp., the insurer that spent $364.6 million on advertising last year, hired General Motors Co.’s top U.S. sales executive as chief marketing officer, two people familiar with the matter said.
Mark LaNeve will also hold the title of senior vice president, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the insurer hasn’t announced the hiring. GM announced this week that LaNeve, 50, would depart and appointed Buick-GMC General Manager Susan Docherty as vice president of U.S. sales.
“There is an active search going on,” said Rich Halberg, a spokesman for Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate. “We don’t have anything to say about the search.”
LaNeve steps into an insurer advertising war that pits Allstate pitchman Dennis Haysbert against Geico Corp.’s gecko mascot and Progressive Corp.’s spunky saleswoman, Flo. Geico, owned by Warren Buffett’sBerkshire Hathaway Inc., was the only publicly traded insurer to spend more on advertising last year, paying $624.6 million, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence.Progressive spent $294 million.
Allstate is spending more of its advertising budget this year on commercials that feature Haysbert, who played the U.S. president on News Corp. television show “24,” TNS said. Allstate’s television ads increased to 80 percent of its overall advertising expenses in the first six months of 2009, compared with 68 percent in all of 2008, according to TNS data.
“Dennis Haysbert represents middle age, stability, father- figure type things,” said George Ruebenson, the president of Allstate’s home and auto unit, in an interview in August. “Lizards do something different. They attract different people. Flo right now with Progressive, it’s funny,” and attracts a younger, less-loyal customer, he said.
LaNeve would be at least the fourth senior appointment by Chief Executive Officer Thomas Wilson in the past 14 months. He hired Don Civgin, a former OfficeMax Inc. executive, as chief financial officer in August 2008, the same month Judith Greffin was promoted to chief investment officer. American International Group Inc. Vice Chairman Matthew Winter was named head of the life insurance and retirement unit this week.
Progressive, the fourth-largest U.S. auto insurer, also brought in an outsider to oversee advertising. The Mayfield Village, Ohio-based company hired Larry Bloomenkranz, a former vice president of brand management at United Parcel Service Inc., as chief marketing officer in March 2008.
GM’s Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson named LaNeve to the nine-member executive committee created as the automaker left bankruptcy on July 10. Business Week reported LaNeve’s move earlier today.
“We are not at liberty to disclose” where LaNeve has taken a job, said Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM.