The AA: From spark-plugs to singalongs

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2018

Like many brands, the AA had been focussing on efficient delivery of short-term results via direct, targeted comms. This seemed to be working – profit was growing. But a new team looked beyond short-term results and discovered a worrying picture of market share and membership decline, driven by increased price sensitivity and falling salience. So the AA overhauled its marketing and re-invested in brand communications. The resulting campaigns rebuilt salience and image, increasing both acquisition and retention. The strengthened brand enabled the group to raise prices – driving stable revenue growth and delivering a profit ROMI of £2.23 for every £1 invested.

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The transformation journey for the AA has been tackled on many fronts, but by far the most commercially significant has been the transformation in brand and communications strategy. There were three big learnings from this journey I’d call out. 1) Attitudes, values, needs and desires drive people’s relationships with brands, and thus their propensity to buy. Talking to their sense of self and identity is highly commercially effective, even in incredibly rational ‘nuts and bolts’ categories such as breakdown cover. 2) Emotional advertising is highly data driven. It’s only with deep and robust, rational data and analytics that a business can have the confidence to leap into an emotional communications strategy. 3) Media mix is your body language. Delivering an emotional campaign effectively relies on big, emotive channels, on a one to many basis. Rational message matrices are seductive in their complexity – we all like to think we’re the cleverest marketer in the room, but the clever marketer says one thing, beautifully, to as many people as possible. As a business the campaign has given us the confidence to believe in the effectiveness of our brand, and more importantly our new strategy, with a focus on our new target audience of Freedom Seekers.

Cheryl Calverley, Marketing Director
The Automobile Association

Winners 2018

Gold Winner


The AA: From spark-plugs to singalongs


The AA


The Automobile Association



Principal Authors

  • Tom Sussman - adam&eveDDB

Contributing Authors

  • Nick Hirst - adam&eveDDB
  • Les Binet - adam&eveDDB
  • Sara Donoghugh - Pearl Metrics
  • Simon Bielby - Carat

Credited Companies

  • The Automobile Association - 0
  • Old Street Data Science Ltd - 0
  • Data2Decisions - Econometrics
  • YouGov - Research
  • Oliver - 0
  • Agenda21 - 0
  • Splendid - 0

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