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.
A Night at the Opera
Never has J.G. Wentworth stepped to the forefront like the company has with its "Opera" campaign. From record-level response to viral-hit status on online video Web sites like YouTube, the 60-second DRTV spot spoofing a Wagnerian opera has clearly struck a nerve with consumers across the nation.
"We are getting terrific, record response from the campaign, following up on great response from our 'It's My Money' campaign," Murray says, alluding to a prior successful spot campaign from late 2007. "DR activities on TV and the Web are key to new account acquisition, while direct mail is the most important component of our prospect and loyalty marketing efforts."
The concept behind the ad began with an opportunity for J.G. Wentworth to utilize a valuable vanity toll-free number. "Early this year, I purchased the rights to use 877-CASH-NOW, but I needed a platform," Murray contends.
Like many DRTV veterans, Murray and J.G. Wentworth have "historically used" hundreds of phone numbers to track response by market, by creative and other breakdown categories. "When you're using an affinity number, it's more difficult to track — but people remember it," he contends.
Murray and his team sat down with one of their agency partners, Karlin+Pimsler, to discuss what options they had to promote the vanity number. "We got together with Malcolm (Karlin) and Steve (Pimsler), and we hit the ball over the net to them," Murray says. "We said, 'We have a number, and we're thinking it needs a jingle or some kind of memorable song."
Agency and client went back and forth through a series of ideas, according to Murray, before the agency team came up with the notion of an opera-themed spot. "I'll give them all the credit for that," Murray says. "I read through script and just started laughing — it was one of those 'V8' moments. 'This is unbelievable! Is it going to work?'"
After the initial rush, questions of execution — production, soundtrack and more — took center stage. But those questions were answered rapidly. "We were out in the market a month earlier than originally planned," Murray contends. "The initial tests were just off the charts, so we accelerated to market."
Murray calls it his most successful campaign of what's been an illustrious career. "It's been successful on many fronts," he says. "First, it's driving a significant volume of new inbound leads — people we haven't previously heard from. Second, it is generating a ton of buzz. It's posted on YouTube, we've been featured on Fox Business News, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive."
He also points out just how much "fun" the campaign has been. "It's fun to watch and to hear responses," he says. "It was fun to dream up and to produce. You didn't want it to end. It was like a school project — we just had the right team at the right time."
Partners Expand Opportunity
Murray's kind words about Karlin+Pimsler's work on behalf of J.G. Wentworth are tough to stop. "We work with several agencies for creative and media placement and all have contributed to our success," he avers. "In particular, working with Mal Karlin and Steve Pimsler of Karlin+Pimsler has allowed us to look at developing campaigns that, at first blush, may appear to be very unorthodox, but have had tremendous impact."
He also contends that agencies and production companies, such as Dempsey Film Group (which handled production for the Opera campaign), are crucial in helping push clients into uncharted territory, if they can back up the ideas with results. "The two critical contributions a DR agency can make to a client's success are, No. 1, listening — first to the client, but more importantly to the client's customers, and No. 2, push the client outside of their comfort zone."