J.G. Wentworth's Direct Response Aria1 Aug, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response
CMO Ken Murray calls the financial services leader's comedic opera-themed DRTV spot the most successful campaign in his stellar two-decade career.
"I think there's a new genre of advertising — direct branding — that companies like ours are helping to shape," says Ken Murray, chief marketing officer of Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based J.G. Wentworth, the United States' largest purchaser of deferred payments for illiquid financial assets. "Today, I have $0 allocated to brand building, yet the money I spend on direct response absolutely builds the brand."
And what a brand it has built in the past decade and a half. Since 1992, J.G. Wentworth has purchased more than $3 billion of future payment obligations, such as structured settlements, annuities and life insurance policies — thereby allowing its customers to access previously illquid streams of money in a single lump sum. When Murray joined the company in 2006, J.G. Wentworth's DR-as-branding strategy was already well established.
"To be honest, DR was responsible for building our brand in the first place," he says. "We needed clients, and the fastest way to do that was to advertise our services directly to consumers — brand building followed."
Murray's background includes a stint on the editorial side of the newspaper business before jumping into the financial services sector. He's spent 20 years in the business, including a solid 12-year run at MBNA, where he served in a variety of marketing leadership roles.
However, it is Murray's latest campaign that he calls his most successful and that has created J.G. Wentworth's biggest advertising splash yet. The company's "Opera" DRTV spot, launched in May, is 60 seconds of quality production, tremendous humor and a memorable call-to-action that has driven amazing results.
Working with New York-based agency Karlin+Pimsler, Murray and the J.G. Wentworth team created what many have termed "breakthrough advertising," according to Murray. "I guess it means that it stands out from the clutter and noise that is the TV viewing experience today," he says.
From Writing About It to Running It
Standing out from the clutter and noise is something Murray has done well since earning an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Delaware. "I was editor of my college newspaper and determined to make a living as a working journalist," Murray says of his early career. "So my mindset has always been: be curious, ask questions, don't take no for an answer, do your homework, be accurate, have a tight deadline and hit it."
After two years of working in the news business for daily newspapers in Connecticut and Florida, Murray decided, "it would be more fun to be engaged in business rather than writing about it." He joined Barnett Banks Inc., with his first role falling in media and investor relations.
"Barnett was a transition for me," he says. "I missed the constant deadline pressure that I had at the newspapers. Still, on that side you only get one side of the story — once you're working in a business, you get to really see how things work, and that's what appealed to me."
During his time at Barnett, Murray earned an MBA in finance and economics from the University of Florida. He began a series of transitions that allowed him to fill a number of different roles in credit, sales, product development and Internet marketing, both at Barnett and then when he transitioned to MBNA America.
"I spent a dozen years at MBNA, where DR was a way of life," Murray says. "I had assignments in the U.S. and Europe, and in both places, the consumer is the driver of business growth and the economy."