In part 2 yesterday of our look at marketing for financial planning, I mentioned that independents should market themselves (i.e., their individual talents) and that the large advisory firms shouldn’t, because…well…they are large. Today, we look at someone who ignored that “advice.”
One of the biggest stories of last year in the category of “agency of record” was renowned digital agency R/GA’s win as AOR for Ameriprise, the multifaceted financial firm that American Express could never figure out what to do with. The news that a “digital shop” was selected over “traditional” agencies to handle all of Ameriprise’s marketing efforts shocked a lot of people in the industry, most of whom weren’t keeping tabs on R/GA’s ongoing transformation.
Like Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise makes only a portion of its income from financial advice. But you wouldn’t know that from its advertising, which is ever-focused on its advisory services – not the mutual funds or related Ameriprise products the advisors funnel customers into.
The three new TV spots from R/GA go literal, like too much advertising nowadays, focusing on the advisors themselves: “presenting Ameriprise agents as trustworthy guides”…"Our advisors, your dreams.” zzzzzzzzz.
Ameriprise has over 10,000 advisors, only 20% of whom are direct Ameriprise employees, by the way. I’m no mathematician, but I can promise you that the odds of getting one of the actual advisors featured in the TV spots are way less than 1 in 10,000.
The real issue here is that talking about how good your people are has been tried a billion times, in a billion industries. Meaningless. And it’s especially meaningless in a trade built on such strict certifications and compliance. This is not where the Bernie Madoff’s are. There isn’t a slouch among the whole bunch of financial planners, nationwide.
So why didn’t R/GA talk about what truly differentiates Ameriprise’s advisors? Is there special training? Do they use special investment tools? Unique methods? Do they get better results for their clients? (Somewhat ironically, R/GA has developed exceptional complementary digital efforts for this overall campaign. Just what you’d expect, given R/GA’s pedigree.)
But its success will have nothing to do with these TV spots, which are just so much white noise. Would have been nice if R/GA had ignored that page in the AOR handbook.