Archive for the ‘financial services’ category

Lincoln Forgets to Memorialize Its Name

August 21st, 2011

For over a year now there’s been an engaging series of  TV commercials, each of which shows a man in his 30s or 40s meeting an older version of himself and asking, “How did we do?” in terms of planning for his financial future.  In all cases, the older version of the man assures the younger one that he ends up doing a good job, but cautions him to keep planning since “retirement isn’t the finish line.”  For the most part, the ads are quite well done, in part because it’s interesting to see how each man looks at two different ages, but mostly because it’s a compelling way to drive home the importance–and rewards–of smart financial planning.

The only problem: the company doing the advertising–Lincoln Financial Group–is virtually invisible.  You only hear the name and see the corporate logo at the very end of the spots, and they’re presented in a very uninteresting way.  Thus, the ads succeed at selling the concept of financial planning but fail to create awareness of Lincoln Financial Group.

It seems to me that if your brand features the name “Lincoln” and your corporate logo features a profile of Honest Abe, your advertising should somehow leverage the image of the man if you want to ensure that people remember that you’re the one doing the advertising.  For example, you might draw a parallel between Abraham Lincoln’s visionary leadership and Lincoln Financial Group’s visionary financial planning.  Or, if you don’t what to go that far, at least do something cleverly memorable in the way you present the brand name and logo rather than simply slapping it on the back end  of a 30-second commercial.

Far too many commercials do a great job of telling a story and a lousy job of reminding the viewer whose story it is.  I think it’s because there are too many agency creatives who’d rather be writing screenplays and who–so that their advertising doesn’t “look like advertising”–call as little attention to the brand being advertised as the advertiser will let them get away with.

Make sure your agency understands that they are in fact writing stories about a star.  The star just happens to be not an actor, but your brand.

Morgan Stanley “World Wise” Ad Is Anything But

September 13th, 2010

Looking for some “rules” on how to create effective advertising?  Here’s a good one for starters:   “Make sure your audience can read the words you’ve written.” Duh. (Or, as Courteney Cox’s character Jules would say on the brilliant Cougar Town, “Der!”)

Every time I get in my car I’m amazed at how many billboards make it impossible for a driver to read the message without risking life and limb.  And every time I pick up a magazine or newspaper I’m equally amazed how many advertisers apparently believe that readers have nothing better to do but get out the magnifying glass to scrutinize every miniscule word in their ridiculously cluttered ad.

Recently Morgan Stanley began running an ad campaign on the front page of my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. The ads are tiny–slightly over 3″ x 4.5″–but that’s not the problem.  The problem is incredibly poor graphic design that makes the ads virtually illegible.

For example, the designer of the above ad chose to superimpose white type over a light green background.  This, coupled with the poor resolution that’s inherent in newspapers, renders the body copy unreadable.  Okay, I’m exaggerating; if you’re willing to squint and expose the ad to ideal lighting conditions, you might be able to make out some of the body copy, including the wonderfully ironic phrase, “…Morgan Stanley has the global insight to help you identify opportunities…”  If Morgan Stanley is so  insightful, why are they running an ad that’s almost impossible to read?

On top of that, the background graphic is an art deco illustration of water rushing over some sort of stepped structure, with a woman standing nearby.  Huh?  Given the reference to “World” in the headline, I can only assume this graphic is supposed to be some known international site, but I don’t have a clue what or where it’s supposed to be.

If Morgan Stanley got a single phone call or website hit as a result of this ad, I’d be absolutely stunned.

If that weren’t bad enough, the brand name “Morgan Stanley” is just about invisible.  It’s almost as if they didn’t want anyone to know who the advertiser is.

Wait a minute.  Maybe a little more wisdom went into the creation of this ad than I’d thought…

Ally Needs to Ally with a Better Advertising Strategy

August 3rd, 2009

Have you seen the series of TV commercials in which an adult uses “fine print” to tease a child? In one, one girl is given a toy pony and then watches as a playmate is given a real pony; in another, a boy is allowed to play with a cool toy airplane for a few seconds, only to have it abruptly taken away and replaced by a sorry cardboard cut-out. These acts of meanness are supposed to be metaphors for how financial services companies use “fine print” to abuse their consumers. Clever, huh?

If you have seen these spots, do you remember who the advertiser is?  I highly doubt it.  The answer is Ally, which on its website bills itself as “a new bank built on the foundation of GMAC Financial Services.”  When I read this, I had a true LOL moment, having used this blog on numerous occasions to criticize General Motors for its automobile and truck advertising. The Ally campaign certainly rivals GM’s vehicle advertising for incompetence.  First, it commits advertising’s cardinal sin by failing to register the brand name–an especially flagrant foul given that this is a new company that badly needs to establish consumer awareness. Second, the story line of the commercials has virtually nothing to do with financial services; the viewer comes away with little or no understanding of what benefit is being promised. Third, the teasing of these children is downright mean; although this meanness is ostensibly meant to represent the way Ally’s competitors treat their customers, it seems more likely that Ally will be the brand associated with the meanness. It almost makes you wish for at disclaimer saying, “No child’s emotions were irreparably harmed during the filming of this commercial.”

In short, these commercials don’t effectively convey either the benefit being advertised or the brand doing the advertising, and those few viewers who are somehow able to identify the brand will likely associate it with meanness.

For a company claiming to know that consumers don’t read the fine print, you’d think that Ally would have the good sense to put its benefits–and its name–in the headline, rather than to associate itself with the teasing of innocent children. What consumers would want to ally with a company like that?