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Direct Response Marketing

Financial Savvy

1 Aug, 2013 By: Doug McPherson Response

Sure, the financial services industry is facing potential customers who are at best a little nervous about investing their money. But direct response is helping ease their nerves — while growing profits

In the world of financial services marketing, Mal Karlin, president and chief creative officer at New York-based Karlin+Pimsler, says he’s beginning to see a trend of companies that want to create a brand that has lasting impact.

“These companies are sometimes competing with large credit card or global bank brands,” Karlin says. “So by creating a smart, distinctive brand message, it determines how potential customers perceive a company.”

He adds that a brand should be lasting and have an impact, and financial services companies that advertise with direct response are putting in the time and effort into developing something great that will last for decades — such as JG Wentworth and RapidAdvance, among others.

In May, Rapid Financial Services LLC, which offers short-term working capital to small businesses, debuted its first national TV campaign dubbed “Your Money’s Here.”

The one-minute TV spot features fictional local small business owners searching for funding solutions to help them grow their companies. In show-tune fashion, RapidAdvance provides the solution.

“We think RapidAdvance’s light-hearted look at the voices — the singing voices — of America’s small businesses will strike the right chord with viewers and the spot will have broad appeal with entrepreneurs,” Karlin says.

RapidAdvance’s campaign looks to reach small business owners on business and sports channels including CNBC, CNN and ESPN. You can view the ad at:

By extension, the ads support RapidAdvance’s efforts to build its brand and power both the company’s third-party sales partnerships and its own direct efforts.

“We fully recognize the value of a powerful and recognized brand to further our positioning as the industry’s gold standard and drive our strategic growth efforts, as well as the importance of advertising to support the build-out of the brand,” says Jeremy Brown, Rapid Financial Services’ CEO.

Brown adds, “We believe the small business owner will be receptive to the medium and the message and are excited by the opportunity to introduce breakthrough creative advertising to the small business lending category. For our sales partners and strategic distribution relationships, being able to present to a prospect a recognized name as the recommended working capital solution is a powerful benefit of partnering with RapidAdvance.”

Karlin contends that since the economic downturn of 2008, banks have made it hard to secure capital and new financial service categories have opened up that address that particular consumer problem — access to capital.

“RapidAdvance was created to offer small business loans for small companies — a smart business proposition since banks have made the loan process much harder,” Karlin says. “We’re also seeing financial service companies trying to reach customers through some new media platforms including mobile and social media, and custom videos and long form commercials syndicated on YouTube.”

‘Safe’ and Sound

Another area that’s leaving consumers a bit skittish these days is retirement. Kevin Dufficy is managing director at, an online group that educates consumers about annuities as an investment option (see page 22). He says the question, “Is your retirement safe?” resonates with consumers.

“It hits a nerve with them. Do you have enough for retirement? Can you get guaranteed monthly income? Are you protected from market risk? Not that we are playing on fear, but we are making the consumer think about important financial issues as they get older,” Dufficy says. “Everyone wants to be able to retire on their terms and with some level of comfort. Annuities can help provide that security — and safety — for many people.”

So when teamed with Karlin+Pimsler to create some buzz, it was little surprise the title of the new campaign came to be “Safe Man.”

The 60-second spot, which launched earlier this year on several cable networks and syndicated TV, is targeting baby boomers, who control 67 percent of the country’s wealth. Viewers are urged to call toll-free or visit a website.

“It hits on the point of safety and retirement,” Dufficy says. “People are nervous about outliving their retirement savings, not having enough, so the safe man campaign talks about the importance of safety with their retirement savings.”

Karlin says the thinking behind the campaign centered on annuities as an investment product that’s safe from the ups and downs of high-risk equities market.

As for the results, has reported double-digit percentage increases in call volume and leads at its call center during the early part of the campaign. And an interesting twist: Karlin’s wife reportedly suggested to her husband that they look into annuities after seeing the spot.

Credit for New Media

Warren Hunter, chairman of DMW Direct, a DRTV company in Chesterbrook, Pa., that often serves insurance companies, says those new media platforms — especially social media — has made DRTV become more important than ever.

“It’s not just about making a single medium work anymore — but making all the media work together,” Hunter says. “The biggest challenge here becomes attribution. No one wants to drop any given medium since they’re all so intertwined. And no one wants to spend time on money on a medium that’s not pulling its weight.”

He says part of his work is to help his insurance clients understand the metrics of their business. “Each medium in play delivers a different level of attributable result and associated return on investment. Now here’s the rub: as much as half of all the business that comes in during the course of a full multi-media, multi-channel distribution campaign becomes at best softly attributable,” Hunter contends. “So, at the end of a big campaign we need to run allocation models across the results to make sure that all the paid media are getting credit for driving business.”

But there’s little doubting social media is key in financial services. Camilla Sullivan, president and CEO at Visionista, a content marketing agency in Washington, D.C., that has created award-winning campaigns for banking, asset management and annuities, says that during the past three years, social media channels have become “beyond critical” to get the consumer who’s already in a response mode.

“The key is know that the content in social media is critical, marketers need to say here’s the 15 seconds on YouTube, here we are on Facebook and LinkedIn, here’s our blog post and here’s the webpage,” Sullivan says. “You want them to interact and create a piece of content that is shared so that you become the trusted source with a lot of credibility.”

Sullivan adds that, because of social media, “people are demanding more openness … there’s an overwhelming demand for authenticity in talking to an audience and the kinds of marketing you’re producing. You have to market to consumers without interrupting them … they need to be able to find you and you need to clearly present your value. They want to be talked with instead of being sold or talked to.”

One example of a financial service company tapping the power of Facebook is, which offers online comparison shopping for life insurance. Its updated Facebook fan page includes an interactive calculator that displays how much life insurance is needed based on current income and how many years a family would need financial protection. Plus, fans get a free life insurance quote, tips about applying for life insurance and how to get low rates. And fans can choose from their own life stage — whether a newly married couple or a couple planning for retirement — and learn how different types of life insurance products can meet their needs.

“Our Facebook page provides our fans with the control of their own user experience,” says Byron Udell, founder and CEO of AccuQuote. “Fans enjoy all of these features within Facebook on their terms at their convenience.” also introduced a mobile site to allow smartphone users an interactive way to search and compare free online life insurance and long term care insurance quotes from a number of top-rated carriers. The site features a list of the top insurance carriers that represents along with tips on buying life insurance.

The Blur of Brand and DR

Despite the growth of social media and other marketing platforms, TV remains a standard for advertisers.

And in that medium, Hunter says traditional insurance carriers are moving to ads that feel like direct even though they are more brand in nature. Of course, what Geico is doing is kind of the opposite, Hunter says.

“They’re using DRTV spots to build their brand — as is Progressive. But take note of MetLife’s round of ads that use the ‘Peanuts’ gang for leverage, but are using TV to get people to the Web for more information. These are really brand ads with all the trappings but since the individual is being targeted by virtue of the product offer the ads are actually driving response — but not in a traditional way.”

Karlin says there are no standard rules of thumb for using DRTV in financial services, or any industry for that matter, but he says in general terms some companies go the easy route and use the traditional method of hiring a celebrity spokesperson.

“The clients we tend to work with have a strong commitment to building an impactful brand identity. They have seen the success the insurance business has had with branding for Geico and Progressive,” he says. “These insurance companies use intelligent creative built around a single, powerful benefit message. Not only have these companies built a great brand, but also they built a great business with strong return on investment. Just because you’re advertising in a direct response environment, a brand message is a brand message. As an industry we should strive to do the best work for our clients and have people enjoy and respect the advertising. Every brand can be a star, even if it advertises in a direct response media environment.” ■

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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