Financial advertising has been witnessing a change in approach over the years. Whereas earlier the entire thought process was a more morbid one – ‘Insure, or else…’, today a divergent approach is taken, right from the future security angle to convenience and even humour.
There have been some memorable ads along the way too, for instance, the K.I.L.B. teaser campaign of Aegon Religare Life Insurance. With the growing number and wide variety of financial instruments available in the market today – from life insurance to health insurance, mutual funds and IPOs etc – it is imperative to inform prospective customers at the right time and break through the clutter.
How has advertising in the financial sector been coping with the changing rules of the market? exchange4media spoke to some financial industry players and ad agencies to find out what they think could be the way ahead.
Karthi Marshan, Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra, observed, “It is not just advertising agencies, but the whole communications ecosystem that is under threat right now due to the rapidly evolving dynamics of the social fabric enabled by technology. In fact, it’s going full circle, except we don’t recognise it yet.”
He added, “Yesterday’s advertising agencies as well as yesterday’s marketing organisation structures are rapidly becoming irrelevant for today’s communication tasks. It’s impossible to draw sharp lines between customer services, PR and search marketing anymore, not to mention what the old world calls ATL and BTL.”
Ajay Kakar, CMO, Financial Services, Aditya Group, felt that the agencies more often than not came across as mere advertising or TVC partners. He stressed, “There is a long perceptional journey that the industry now needs to traverse, from that of being interested in creating 30-seconders to being interested in creating brands. Until then, the industry may have to live with a twist to the saying ‘throw peanuts, get monkeys’ and hear marketers say, ‘got monkeys, threw peanuts’.”
The changing rules of the game
Moving ahead, traditional advertising has to pay attention to the changing environment and adopt them at a faster pace to create successful communication. Kakar opined, “I see an opportunity for an advertising agency to be a brand custodian and a brand steward – a true partner to the marketing fraternity in creating, nurturing and building brands.”
Giving the agency point of view on this, Arvind Sharma, Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett India, explained, “Traditionally, there have been two ways of looking at advertising agencies – there have been those who have looked at agencies as suppliers of creative and then there have been those who have looked at agencies as creative partners. As complexity in advertising increases, more and more people are subscribing to this second school of thought.”
Giving a marketer’s point of view, Sharma said, “Marketing has never been more complex or more uncertain. Budgets are always stretched because of the multiple media that consumers are spread across. Consumers have become increasingly difficult to access and when you finally track them down, you often find them worldly wise and cynically appraising everything you say. Neither can you sit back complacently, basking in brand success when you find it. Product advantage is replicated, market advantage is short-lived and competitors have to be furiously warded off quarter to quarter. Somewhere within this, the marketer must find the time to build his brand, because the same consumers, who want attractive schemes and promotions, also want good brands.”
Listen to the players
Abraham Alapatt, CMO, Future Generali, too, agreed that the media environment had and was continuing to change rapidly. Citing the changes witnessed, he added, “Relatively newer media forms and resultant media consumption patterns are also changing traditional ways of advertising and communication. Internet and mobile media, especially the rapid growth of smart phones and mobile data devices (providing 24x7 interactivity with consumers and their own personal ‘always on’ social networks), are increasingly becoming mainstays of cutting edge brands and their brand building and promotional efforts. Co-created content has become the norm and interactivity is critical to the new age media consumer.”
According to Alapatt, “Good ad agencies should (if they haven’t already) evolve with the client’s business, understand the key communication needs and challenges faced by the business and then help choose the appropriate media/ form to ensure effective and efficient delivery to stay relevant. In other words, they should marry fundamental (technology-agnostic) communication skill sets with suitable ‘new technology’ skills in the specific media domain, either themselves (as the creative agency) or with a collaborative approach (with specialist new media agencies) to ensure that the opportunities offered by non traditional media use are optimised for the client.”
Marshan of Kotak Mahindra, said, “I believe the next wave of marketing communication tasks will revolve around curating customer conversations, rather than publishing barefaced brand plugs. And I don’t think any of us are ready for the changes that we will have to make to prepare for this world, be it structurally, or in our mindsets.”
On his expectations from ad agencies today, Aditya Group’s Kakar said, “I need ‘doctors’, the more experienced the doctor, the better. The experienced lot is moving over to the client side and the gap is evident. Please do address that and quickly. I need the advertising community to not only think about my brand, but live it and breathe it, preferably 24x7 – so do give me your time and attention. And as long as you are running from one client to another, that will not happen. So, take fewer clients. Give them your best. And charge them the premium you deserve. So, please do be partners in my success. And if you help me achieve my KRAs faster, better or cheaper, I will weigh you in ‘gold’. That’s a promise.”
Unlike FMCG advertising, financial advertising needs specialist treatment as investment or insurance decisions always involve one’s life’s savings and securing one’s and one’s family’s future. Hence, a customer will not be swayed by some glitzy ads or celebrity endorsements. What works is an assurance that a customer can trust and brand promise that delivers on his/her needs.
(With inputs by Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Tasneem Limbdiwala and Shikha.)