Moving Finance Forward: A Guide to More Impactful Advertising in Financial Services

by Lasharna Turner

Posted on 07-29-2019

In every rela­tion­ship there are moments that matter. Milestones, sub­tle or mon­u­men­tal, that pull us clos­er togeth­er and shape what we mean to each other.

When we think back to many of these moments — get­ting a stu­dent loan, buy­ing a house, get­ting mar­ried, hav­ing kids — finan­cial ser­vices and insur­ance providers are on the oth­er side. Their prod­ucts give us the green light to go for­ward in life, and their advice makes us feel like we’re ready to do it right.

The dig­i­tal world is full of promise for these organ­i­sa­tions to enhance cus­tomer rela­tion­ships, but they’re not sure how to take advan­tage. In a 2018 trends report by Adobe and Econ­sul­tan­cy, 28 per­cent of finan­cial ser­vices adver­tis­ers list­ed opti­mis­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence as their top pri­or­i­ty, but just 7 per­cent were con­cerned with “cre­at­ing com­pelling con­tent for dig­i­tal experiences”.

These mar­ket­ing depart­ments are spend­ing bil­lions on dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing, and eMarketer’s “US Finan­cial Ser­vices Indus­try Stat­Pack 2018” fore­casts that their ad spend will breach $15 bil­lion in 2019. But increased spend means lit­tle to noth­ing with­out improved strat­e­gy, points out Christo­pher Young, direc­tor of finan­cial ser­vices indus­try strat­e­gy at Adobe, who notes “in this era, you need to under­stand the cus­tomer in order to bet­ter serve them. At bare min­i­mum, this is forc­ing adver­tis­ers to be far more pre­cise, far more per­son­alised, far more con­tex­tu­al­ly aware of the individual.”

Con­sumers expect con­ve­nient, tai­lored ser­vices and mes­sages. But tra­di­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions con­tin­ue to lean on cold email blasts, click­able ban­ners, and blan­ket offer­ings. These aren’t the foun­da­tions for real, endur­ing rela­tion­ships — not when those they’re reach­ing are becom­ing increas­ing­ly savvy toward mar­ket­ing tac­tics and are wary of how mar­keters use their data. Despite this, the cur­rent envi­ron­ment is ripe for adver­tis­ers to lead trans­for­ma­tion with­in their organ­i­sa­tion with­out los­ing anyone’s trust.

Make connections while staying compliant

Mar­keters and adver­tis­ers are the bridges between brands and con­sumers. To build cus­tomer-cen­tric ser­vices you must start with a cus­tomer-cen­tric atti­tude — and adver­tis­ers in finan­cial ser­vices are in the posi­tion to lead the way.

Com­pli­ance with data pri­va­cy reg­u­la­tions can ham­per these efforts and pose chal­lenges for finan­cial insti­tu­tions. When adver­tis­ing is done right, how­ev­er, you can rise to the chal­lenge and dri­ve change in tra­di­tion­al institutions.

Accord­ing to Young, “two of the things that are chal­leng­ing for finan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies are dynam­ic cre­ative opti­mi­sa­tion and hyper-personalisation…because they have to take their com­pli­ance and legal depart­ment along with them in this journey.”

But com­pli­ance does not rule out per­son­al­i­sa­tion. Nor does it pre­vent mar­keters from opti­mis­ing dif­fer­ent adver­tis­ing chan­nels. Yes, finan­cial insti­tu­tions are restrict­ed in how they can use per­son­al infor­ma­tion or cook­ie web vis­i­tors — and must fol­low new laws like the EU’s Gen­er­al Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion (GDPR). But even with cre­ative con­straints imposed by finance-spe­cif­ic reg­u­la­tors, mar­keters can still col­lect demo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion. For exam­ple, they can offer con­sumers the option of con­nect­ing their social chan­nels and online account ser­vices, and then use this data to seg­ment their audi­ences and deliv­er tar­get­ed experiences.

With pow­er­ful tools for mul­ti­vari­ate test­ing, they can iden­ti­fy high-per­form­ing ads or audi­ence groups based on behav­iour. Almost every­one has a dig­i­tal foot­print, and tools and data sources exist in the pub­lic domain that can pro­vide action­able insight into inter­ests and behaviours.

“Using data sources like IXI and Acx­iom reveals oth­er traits and hob­bies, like investable assets or spend­ing,” Young says. “These data ele­ments can all be used for per­son­al­i­sa­tion with­out using per­son­al­ly iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion. There’s a lot that finan­cial ser­vices can do compliantly.”

More alike than you think

Finan­cial adver­tis­ers’ goals are not so dif­fer­ent from their peers in oth­er indus­tries. “They’re very much focused on impact­ing their com­pa­nies in pos­i­tive strate­gic ways by dri­ving brand aware­ness, enhanc­ing per­son­al­i­sa­tion, and increas­ing cross-sell and up-sell,” says David Per­ry, sales and busi­ness devel­op­ment, strate­gic accounts, at Adobe.

In oth­er words, they want to cre­ate mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions. It then comes as no sur­prise that many of today’s best adver­tis­ing prac­tices apply to the finan­cial ser­vices and insur­ance sectors.

  1. Obsess over your customers

    At the heart of good_ _adver­tis­ing is an obses­sion with the human on the oth­er side. Nobody needs banks or bank­ing prod­ucts — rather, they need ser­vices to safe­ly store and access their mon­ey, or they need advice and tools to reach their finan­cial goals. They don’t need insur­ance bro­kers and poli­cies, they need to be pro­tect­ed from risk. Ulti­mate­ly, they need to trust these institutions.

    Cus­tomer obses­sion isn’t new, but many organ­i­sa­tions still strug­gle to over­come inter­nal bar­ri­ers of siloed mar­ket­ing teams, dis­joint­ed cam­paigns, and unproven attri­bu­tion which results in inter­rup­tive ad experiences.

    Finan­cial adver­tis­ers can take two steps to over­come this:

    • Use cen­tralised, cross-chan­nel ad tech to get a full pic­ture of the sequen­tial paths tak­en to choose your prod­ucts or services.

    • Employ this same tech­nol­o­gy to seg­ment audi­ences based on where they’re most engaged — and what they’re most engaged with — in a whol­ly com­pli­ant way.

    Invest­ing in audi­ence seg­men­ta­tion tools means bet­ter cross-chan­nel ad vis­i­bil­i­ty and, ulti­mate­ly, con­tent that reach­es con­sumers with the right mes­sage for _them _in that moment.

  2. Make personal messages scalable

    When the cost of cre­at­ing vari­able designs is high, it’s easy to set­tle for a gener­ic ad that doesn’t dare to be bet­ter. But a gener­ic ad doesn’t mean it will res­onate with the widest audi­ence — it often means it res­onates with no one.

    Pic­ture this.

    Instead of spin­ning their wheels resiz­ing ad after ad, a design team can focus their efforts on a big cre­ative con­cept for a new prod­uct launch or cam­paign. Assets and design specs then form a library that can be accessed to pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly cre­ate, refine, test, and update ads on-the-fly. In this sce­nario, automa­tion doesn’t step on creative’s toes. It lets them focus on the high-val­ue work they’re real­ly good at.

    We’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again — a sin­gle set of cre­ative just won’t do. Cre­ative must be tai­lored to the screen, chan­nel, moment, and indi­vid­ual — a mon­u­men­tal task with man­u­al process­es where a design­er must cre­ate each iter­a­tion and each change must go through review.

  3. Be consistent to become reliable.

    Peo­ple are increas­ing­ly com­fort­able deal­ing with their finances online. They’re just as like­ly to pay their bills from their phone on their morn­ing sub­way ride or plan their invest­ments from the com­fort of their home office as they are to set foot inside a brick-and-mor­tar branch.

    While organ­i­sa­tions should adapt their adver­tis­ing to best suit each inter­ac­tion, their core mes­sag­ing needs to be con­sis­tent in order to build brand recog­ni­tion and trust in a world where atten­tion spans and loy­al­ty are ever shift­ing. Whether your cus­tomers are dis­cov­er­ing a new cred­it card plan through a spon­sored pod­cast, hear­ing about an upgrad­ed insur­ance pol­i­cy from mobile ads, or learn­ing about the same offers from an advi­sor face to face, they expect consistency.

    Con­sumers are research-dri­ven and active­ly ver­i­fy offers and mes­sag­ing across web, video, and offline sources. By con­nect­ing these dis­parate data sources, finan­cial insti­tu­tions can have a con­sis­tent pres­ence across touch­points — each chan­nel is a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect with clear, rel­e­vant messages.

    When trust and reli­a­bil­i­ty are core to the val­ue offer­ing, those val­ues must be reflect­ed in every aspect of ad deliv­ery. This means hav­ing a holis­tic view of what’s res­onat­ing, where, and why, and using that insight to build a gen­uine inter­ac­tion. After all, you don’t want to harass a con­sumer about a new insur­ance pol­i­cy with a Face­book ad if they’ve already reject­ed it by email.

    By using back-end sys­tems that cre­ate cohe­sive cross-chan­nel expe­ri­ences, finan­cial insti­tu­tions can achieve con­sis­ten­cy with­out sac­ri­fic­ing value.

  4. Use customer data how they want you to.

    As con­sumers inter­act with finan­cial ser­vice providers across a sprawl of chan­nels and devices, it becomes more and more dif­fi­cult to get a clear view of how they engage with each ad or touch­point. That’s why data is more impor­tant than ever.

    Behe­moth social and search chan­nels — like Face­book and Google — can feel like black box­es in terms of con­trol­ling engage­ment and mea­sur­ing true impact. Between con­flict­ing attri­bu­tion reports, ad agency per­for­mance, and com­pet­ing inter­nal KPIs, it remains chal­leng­ing for adver­tis­ers to know what’s mov­ing the needle.

    Mean­while, as con­cerns about pri­va­cy, fraud, and brand safe­ty grow, cus­tomers have increas­ing stan­dards of trans­paren­cy in mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing. Peo­ple are will­ing to pro­vide their infor­ma­tion, with­in rea­son, but they want to know exact­ly how and when it’s being used.

    Giv­en what’s at stake when han­dling per­son­al data, finan­cial ser­vices organ­i­sa­tions in par­tic­u­lar must think for­ward in their efforts to cap­i­talise on data in a way that ben­e­fits their end user first.

    Lega­cy finan­cial play­ers have a cou­ple of options:

    **• **Bring attri­bu­tion and inte­gra­tion in-house with solu­tions that join siloed data and pro­vide chan­nel analytics.

    **• **Out­source these roles to agen­cies and tech part­ners who fol­low the same com­pli­ance frameworks.

    **• **Engage in data-shar­ing projects with third par­ties for cus­tomer initiatives.

    Either way, adver­tis­ers can solve the attri­bu­tion prob­lem by tap­ping into met­rics and ana­lyt­ics that uni­fy dis­parate data sources and iden­ti­fy which ads, across which chan­nels, are appeal­ing to which customers.

    Finan­cial insti­tu­tions must com­ply with dis­clo­sure and PII pro­tec­tion poli­cies like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act by clear­ly explain­ing their data-shar­ing prac­tices and keep­ing all non-pub­lic per­son­al infor­ma­tion safe. But this doesn’t need to inhib­it a great ad experience.

    At a time where trust in both finance and adver­tis­ing is ebbing, forg­ing com­pli­ant part­ner­ships to make the most of data is mis­sion critical.

Realising what’s important

Hard num­bers, tra­di­tion­al prod­ucts, tight reg­u­la­tions. These have all come to define finan­cial ser­vices, but there’s no rea­son why we can’t add a cou­ple more to the list: emo­tion­al intel­li­gence and com­pelling advertising.

Adver­tis­ers can be held back by a lack of resources, buy-in, or cre­ative free­dom, but these chal­lenges are speed bumps, not dead ends. Mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing lead­ers can pio­neer trans­for­ma­tion at their organ­i­sa­tions to devel­op more mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships, but they’ll need a lit­tle help. Part­ner­ing with tech­nol­o­gy providers allows them to take com­pli­ant, data-dri­ven approach­es to adver­tis­ing that play to the nuances of each chan­nel and every conversation.

With deep con­sumer knowl­edge on their side, and the right tech­nol­o­gy and tools, even the most estab­lished finan­cial insti­tu­tions can reach a new adver­tis­ing stan­dard that’s bet­ter for every­one. Bet­ter for exec­u­tives, who want strate­gic suc­cess and a grow­ing bot­tom line. Bet­ter for prac­ti­tion­ers, who are respon­si­ble for every­day exe­cu­tion. And most impor­tant­ly, bet­ter for con­sumers, who want to feel con­nect­ed to the orga­ni­za­tions they choose to trust.

Finan­cial insti­tu­tions can use these guide­lines to reassess their adver­tis­ing process­es, push­ing their organ­i­sa­tions for­ward and, in turn, guid­ing their cus­tomers toward mean­ing­ful con­ver­sions. It’s all a mat­ter of trust.

Find out what it takes to deliv­er a con­nect­ed adver­tis­ing expe­ri­ence.

Dig­i­tal Intel­li­gence Breif­ing: 2018 Dig­i­tal Trends in Finan­cial Ser­vices,” Econ­sul­tan­cy and Adobe, June 2018.

Patri­cia Orsi­ni, “US Finan­cial Ser­vices Indus­try Stat­Pack 2018,” eMar­keter, July 12, 2018

Topics: Advertising, financial services, personalisation, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA