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Why newish personal finance brands are believers in TV ads

  • Newer finance brands that don't have a legacy name or an extensive brick-and-mortar presence are looking to traditional TV ads to grow their reach
  • Financial brands are seeing TV as a way to build brand recall and recognition
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Why newish personal finance brands are believers in TV ads

Companies on a mission to digitize finance are looking to traditional TV ads to grow their reach. While long-established brands can rely on name recognition to attract and retain customers, newer companies are moving into traditional channels like television to bolster their presence among targeted demographics.

Take SoFi, for example. The financial services company that began as an online lender is branching out to a range of financial products like wealth management, mortgages and online banking. For SoFi, television is a way to push its name when it doesn’t have a physical presence. It’s been doing TV ads for almost two years.

“As a financial brand that doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar manifestations, it’s doubly important that people see us in the world somewhere other than just the internet,” said Jim Prosser, vp of communications and policy at SoFi. “It sends a subtext that this is a legitimate institution if it has the funds and wherewithal to invest in a brand campaign.”

SoFi wouldn’t say how much it spends on TV ads, but Prosser noted that its TV ad spend was in the tens of millions of dollars this year. SoFi’s TV ads serve two main purposes: to build up the image of the brand itself, and to market products to specific types of customers.

Recent examples include a 2016 Super Bowl ad that spoke to a specially carved out demographic of “great people” (an approach that drew some criticism for elitism), to a Super Bowl overtime ad from earlier this year called ‘Together'” that focused on some common milestones and challenges that SoFi customers face. Margi Brown, vp of marketing and media for SoFi, explained that the company has been using targeted approaches to reach people, including working with AT&T AdWorks on addressable TV, which allows ads to be delivered to targeted groups (people of a certain age and and income level, for example) through set-top boxes. It’s also been doing linear ad buys. Brown emphasized that the TV ads are part of a bigger strategy that includes digital advertising and social media outreach.

SoFi’s marketing efforts, including TV ads, often target younger consumers. While some recent numbers suggest that younger people may not be interested in TV (for example, a recent Omnicom study found that 47 percent of millennials and Gen Xers who don’t watch traditional TV), financial services marketers are looking beyond that to specific events that draw in TV viewers. Brown said these types of numbers are misleading because they don’t speak to the spikes in TV watching that occurs around major events. And according to recent data, U.S. consumers still spend 4.4 hours a day watching television.

While SoFi typically targets high-earning customers, at the other end of the income spectrum, U.K.-based online lender Oakam uses TV ads to reach single moms, self-employed men, or older people on benefits. Oakam’s chief marketing officer Julie Haugen said TV ads, unlike online sponsored ad content, is a more effective way of driving interest among targeted demographics, largely because the company is able to reach people during times of the day they’re most likely to be watching TV. Oakam, which has been doing TV ads for a year and is currently on two U.K. channels (ITV and ITV2) carried out some market research to figure out what times suited target demographics.

What drives interest from the TV ads, is the fact that they profile real customers who used Oakam loans to solve short-term financial problems.

“All of our television ads feature real customers and have a format where the customer will explain the problem they had, like for example my cooker broke and I needed money and went to Oakam,” said Haugen. “It’s very authentic and helps drive visits to our website.” Since the ads begun airing, Haugen said website visits more than doubled in six months. Oakam would not say how much it spent on TV ads.

Banks have an additional challenge marketing new products like peer-to-peer payments tool Zelle, when competitors like PayPal-owned Venmo have a currency among certain demographics. For banks, television is a way to reach a broader slice of the population than just millennials, including older customers who may not trust a newer product offering. Early Warning, the bank-owned consortium that runs the Zelle network, said the goal of the television advertising to point to the fact that the tool is safe and easy. 

“You need to have a nudging principle with TV — we’ve reached a point in our technological evolution that this is now so commonplace that you don’t even need to worry about it,” said Matt Waghorn, vp of connection strategy at ad agency Huge, which worked with Early Warning to develop the ads.

For Zelle, the target is a mass population across the U.S. that use mobile banking apps with Zelle’s capabilities embedded within them. For Early Warning, television can serve two strategic objectives, Waghorn said, including brand recall and a “mainstreaming” of the Zelle name by enmeshing it with prospective customers’ living room entertainment. Early Warning would not provide figures on ad spend, but noted that the TV ads were lumped into a multimillion dollar budget for Zelle brand awareness, on top of promotions member banks  are doing.

“Whether it’s linear TV or TV on demand, or large-screen video, it’s all about the big screen — video on a large format screens engenders a different kind of behavior, it’s a laid-back, entertainment-driven experience, and people have receptivity to brands because it’s part of the experience.”

 

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