Group brand director Jan Gooding, speaking at IAB Engage 2016, pointed to GoCompare’s Luigi, Comparethemarket.com’s meerkats and Direct Line’s Harvey Keitel as examples.
Car insurance dominated marketing spend is because the other areas "massively" reduced their contribution to the marketing budget.
"As a result, the brand and unfortunately also Paul Whitehouse became highly associated with car insurance. We had low awareness and consideration scores in other areas of the business," she said.
While the Whitehouse ads resulted in a short-term boost to sales, the brand’s underlying health didn’t look so good.
Gooding added: "We recognised that the use of a big character – advertising that is leveraged to cut through in a sector people found incredibly boring – was now commonplace.
"We would need to escape the car insurance ghetto we found ourselves in and find a new approach to marketing that once again stood us apart from the competition and better reflected the scale of business we were."
Gooding told Campaign that TV remains a hugely effective driver for Aviva, but that the brand had adopted an "ecosystem of screens". That means reaching consumers through digital tools and online videos and to that end, the brand launched the digital-first "Shape my future" campaign.
The campaign ties into Aviva’s first ever brand promise, launched at the end of last year. Gooding introduced "Good thinking" to commit to stop "selling people stuff" and to solve issues such as using phones while driving, and planning people to plan for their retirement.