When robots get it wrong
27 July 2020
Our customers know that we provide New Zealand’s leading specialist insurance products, for everything from Motorhomes and Caravans to high-end prestige vehicles, enthusiast cars, motorcycles and more.
We are the industry leaders because we don’t rely on technology to create generic policies. Instead, we personally assess every policy application, and make precise policy tweaks based on the unique circumstances of each customer. That way, each of our customers enjoy personal, tailored insurance policies that lead the market.
However, thanks to technology, we recently found ourselves in an embarrassing, yet easily-remedied situation that was created by Google’s artificial intelligence (Ai). Once we were informed of the issue, we quickly rectified it. Next thing, the offended competitor lawyered up and made a complaint with the Commerce Commission about our alleged misleading advertising. Here’s what happened.
Digital Advertising is the best way to reach new customers
Like all serious businesses, we use digital channels to advertise our products. More often than not, this will involve using Google Search products. Our external Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team had just turned on a Google advertising feature, which uses automation , for our Star CamperCare ads to generate the headlines in our ads. Unfortunately, it wasn't set up correctly and it unintentionally pulled in the search keyword “covi” into the headline of our ad.
We absolutely agree that what happened was unfortunate. But it was not planned, mischievous or intentional on our part. We pulled the ad within 10-minutes of the error being brought to our attention by a customer of the competitor, at which point we told our external Search Engine team who fixed the misconfiguration immediately.
We understand why this ad upset our competitor. If the roles were reversed and it happened to us, we would have contacted them personally with a please explain enquiry. That’s because we work in the same industry and it’s what reasonable people do. If we were ignored, we would send a cease and desist letter from our lawyers. Everything would be resolved quickly and hopefully amicably, because most people in the Motorhome & Caravan industry operate above board.
Mistakes happen. We own what happened, don’t want it to happen again and we want to make it clear we did not set out to create this situation. We’re rather embarrassed that technology let us down and upset the sensitivities of the NZ Motorhome and Caravan Association (NZMCA) and their insurance partner, Covi Insurance. But it reinforces why we don’t rely on technology to create insurance policies, and are so hands-on in our approach at Star Insurance Specialists and Star CamperCare. The human touch will always beat a robotic approach that many competitors use to create their policies.
We don’t need to rely on using competitor names to bring us business because, frankly, our industry leading brands are strong and work for customers who appreciate better insurances and experiences. Our customers are pleased to have left antiquated approaches and inferior insurance policies in their rear view mirrors.
There was a misconfiguration with a new Google ad campaign that our agency set up, putting us in the firing line of the NZ Motorhome and Caravan Association and Covi Insurance. We removed the offending ad within 10-minutes of being informed about it.
We genuinely believe in competition as it makes insurances better for everyone, and shines a light on how good our policies are in comparison. Our business operation has zero desire or need to trade off someone else’s name.
To date, Star Insurance Specialists and the team at Star CamperCare have not heard from the New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan Association, Covi Insurance, or the Commerce Commission.