By Cyril Tuohy
Five years after the financial crisis, ad campaigns targeting registered investment advisors (RIAs) are stressing the importance of an institution’s trust and the ability of advisors to help investors make their own decisions, two marketing experts said.
The marketing experts also said that it’s no accident, as investors look more warily at the ability of advisors and financial institutions to protect principal.
“Trust is a big issue that has come across all our audits, also the ability for more people to take more individual control,” said John Duggan, vice president of business development for Phoenix Marketing International, which audits ad campaigns for their effectiveness and response.
With investors and business owners in a cautious frame of mind, broker-dealers and financial advisory companies want to position themselves as ideal partners that give advisors the tools “to help make decisions and recommendations,” Duggan said.
Among the recent initiatives that have been a hit with advisors are Prudential’s “Only One” campaign promoting variable annuities, John Hancock’s “Backstage Pass” emphasizing advisors’ access to top institutional managers and Nationwide’s “Retire--ophobia” outlining how the company can help financial advisors help their clients.
Carl Uttaro, senior research analyst for Phoenix Marketing, said that Vanguard’s “Newspaper” ad campaign and Franklin Templeton’s “Time to Wake Up” ads also stood out for delivering relevant and unique offerings to financial advisors.
In an interview with InsuranceNewsNet, Uttaro said that Nationwide, John Hancock and Franklin Templeton are emphasizing their relevance in the market.
Crisp, clear headlines, keywords, succinct takeaways, support of claims with third-party data, the use of Morningstar ratings, eye-catching visuals and explanations of how companies can support an advisor’s practice are the hallmarks of successful ad campaigns, he said.
Real-world cases featuring a business owner in American Funds’ “Retirement Plans” campaign were also effective because of the ads’ unique picture, strong call-to-action and supporting information about American Funds and its products, the Phoenix researchers said.
The print media ads appear or have appeared in general-interest business publications like The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, as well as in targeted trade magazines like Investment Advisor and Investment News.
Some of the campaigns are still ongoing as wirehouses and broker-dealers seek to capture advisors’ attention.
Phoenix’s brand and marketing audits, conducted twice a year, highlight the best practices in advisor-targeted advertising. The results of this most recent audit, conducted in May, were compiled from responses from 1,000 RIAs from national, regional, independent and bank or insurance broker-dealers.
Investment managers, wirehouses, broker-dealers and insurance companies need to reach RIAs because the RIAs represent the distribution backbone for the products the institutions “make” or underwrite, and the services the institutions provide.
National print advertising campaigns in which identical or nearly identical ads are blasted into different print channels cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. John Hancock spent at least $226,000 for its Backstage Pass campaign, the researchers said.
While there’s no guarantee that an ad campaign will be effective, there are qualities that strong ad campaigns usually share: a clear message, imaginative use of graphics and support for claims.
Some ads that are not easy to remember score highly from a brand standpoint. Recall metrics for Hancock’s “Backstage Pass,” for instance, were lower than the “norm,” Uttaro said, but recognition of the company sponsoring the ad was above the norm.
Uttaro said that the trend among ads targeting financial advisors has been one of how institutions can support and service the advisors who work for them or sell their products.
Among the more ineffective campaigns this time were Scottrade’s “What Matters,” Nationwide’s “You + 50 Years,” Interactive Brokers’ “Largest Broker” and Legg Mason’s “Launching Pad” campaigns, the researchers said.
Those campaigns fell flat because there was too much unnecessary text or the content was paired ineffectively with graphics and pictures, the researchers also said.
<p> Allianz’s “One Great Opportunity,” promoting annuities; Lincoln Financial’s “Trees,” promoting variable universal life products, and TD Ameritrade’s “Advancing” and MFS’ “Carry the Weight” campaigns, both promoting advisors services, also were judged ineffective.
Dull campaigns lacked impact, struggled to persuade their respective audience, lacked creativity or failed to convey a brand’s credibility. “Too much jargon or the ineffective use of graphics detracts from the offer,” Uttaro said.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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