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Does anyone take notice of financial advertising and marketing anymore?

During an enthusiastic post-holiday clear out of my office, several copies of ‘the pinks’ and other financial weeklies got a rare second read-through prior to becoming part of the bedding for our chickens. 

What caught my eye? 

Articles, editorial and letters for the most part – but none of the advertising.  Well, a clever advertisement with a musical theme from UNUM caused me to pause for a moment.

It’s fair to say that most of the advertising in our financial weeklies isn’t aimed at me, but it is aimed at IFAs and financial planners, of whom I have intimate knowledge of what does get their attention.  I think it’s also fair to say that in over 30 years in financial services it is amazing how little Providers’ advertising has changed.  There is the same combination of ‘push’ marketing, new product promotion, special offers and maintenance of brand awareness – but seemingly nothing exciting, exhilarating, innovative and creative to reel us in.  Maybe it’s there and I just haven’t noticed it.

‘What about the wrappers that a Provider sometimes puts around the outside of the paper?’ some creative agencies might ask.  Sorry, that's not my idea of creative, and only goes to add more to the floor of our hens’ bedroom where they too will pass comment.

And it’s not as if paper advertising is cheap; surely Providers themselves know that most IFAs flick past the ads as they home in on articles and editorial which interests them, giving expensive promotions the mere briefest of glances.

Maybe that’s all Providers want and expect – the briefest of glances from an IFA?  Not in today’s market they don’t, and no one is going to convince me that’s all they can realistically expect from a full, half or quarter page in the pinks or other weekly publications. 

Yes, I think it’s time to admit that financial advertising and marketing needs a big shake up if Providers want to see serious ROI - which I’m sure they do.

How will that happen?  Does it mean employing brighter and even more creative Creative people?  Does it mean spending even more money on advertisement placements, or will you just have to push even harder?

Quite apart from whether a physical weekly paper will still exist in a few years time, presumably many Providers will shift more of their attention to the Internet.  'Simply post your ads and the people will come' I heard someone say the other day because that’s where all the IFAs now go for news, analysis and financial information.  Well, no – it doesn’t really work like that. 

Many Providers’ online advertising isn’t much better, with creativity and innovation often limited to gimmicks such as ads which expand in size when you roll your mouse over them, or ads which creep across the page to obscure what you are reading – the online equivalent of the wrapper round the paper.  Like the paper wrapper, I just want to get rid of it as fast as possible.  It’s just plain irritating and doesn’t engage me remotely – and I only remember it for being a nuisance.

The creative professionals will tell me that the advertisement or promotional methodology achieved what was intended, in that it was in my field of vision for three quarters of a second.  Sorry, I don’t buy it any more – that is no measure of success.

So maybe the Internet isn’t the be all and end all of financial advertising. 

No it isn’t, but you better get used to it because that’s where the majority of the ad spend will be over the coming years.  Which brings us back to where we started; apart from a few digital gimmicks, what will make a Provider’s online advertising stand out from the crowd? 

What will differentiate you?  What techniques will enhance your brand values and maintain your name in IFAs’ or consumers' minds so they see you as being trustworthy, credible and the only choice?

But more importantly, what kind of advertising will not only get IFAs’ attention but cause them to actively respond and engage with you because you are adding value to their lives?

Just imagine, wouldn’t it be great if financial advertising could:


  • Have huge reach, yet also access closely defined target markets
  • Encourage IFAs and consumers to proactively pass it on to other people
  • Build and cement trust in your financial brand
  • Enhance the perception of your brand’s credibility and expertise
  • Create instant response from IFAs, plus real active engagement with you
  • Get IFAs coming willingly to you, rather than you pushing messages to them
  • Be brave and innovative, and
  • All at low cost?

‘It can’t be done’ some will say, otherwise they would be doing it already.

Well, it can be and is being done.  Not a lot, but we are starting to see a few Providers venturing into the world of Social Media Marketing or at least talking about it.

And why not, because social media gives Providers the reach, is brave and innovative, can be targeted and can be very low cost. 

Even better, is the fact that both consumers and IFAs are already using social networks to discuss Providers, their products and their services.  Some of it is positive and acts as a superb viral referral mechanism, and naturally some of it is not so positive.  But either way, you need to know about it.  An interesting example of how a brand’s name is talked<

Author: Philip Calvert
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2009 | 2:33:45 PM

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09 February 2010 | 8:44:27 PM  Ron Kost wrote:
Philip, your insights are on the mark. In point of fact, many of your points are being raised on my Professional Social Media Site. I would encourage you and your audience to take part in our conversation to this subject at The Forum is CFO Conversations... New Frontiers in Financial Media

Ron Kost
VP Sales PSN Inc.
17 November 2009 | 12:20:07 PM  Richard Buettner wrote:
Good article, Thanks!
Is there something missing? I would like to know what is the "interesting example of how a brands name is talked"...?
10 August 2009 | 6:46:21 PM  Richard Allum wrote:
Very good article and so true. I have noticed how the 'pinks' are getting thinner and hardly ever look at an advert. Is it a coincidence that Steve Bee has been given what appears to be a free run at Twitter by Scottish Life and their pension sales shoot up?

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