Advisors Rank 10 Best & Worst Ads by Partner Firms

More than 1,000 advisors reviewed 30 print ads for likeability as well as relevance and impact in a Phoenix Marketing survey

Social media may be driven largely by “likes” these days, but it turns out that financial services firms’ advisor-targeted advertising is driven by much more than likeability. The true sign of success for an ad that targets advisors is whether or not any action was taken, a recent survey of advisors by Phoenix Marketing International concludes.

In a best practices advertising webinar on Tuesday, Phoenix Marketing International presented the results of its May survey of 1,152 advisors who were asked detailed questions about their response to 30 print ads that financial services firms have placed in trade publications and The Wall Street Journal over the last year.

Advisors picked the five best and the five worst of the 30 ads, making their judgments based on metrics such as brand recognition, main message and likeability, recall and 24 creative measures such as relevance and impact. Also surveyed were outcomes, meaning brand persuasion, ad recall and action taken in terms of the search for more information, company contact and recommendations to others.

“We looked at ad strategies that did or didn’t hit, and creative themes that were most successful or unsuccessful. The most successful touched on advisor support and helping advisors help their clients. We saw ads that really resonated on that theme,” said Carl Uttaro, a senior research analyst and product manager for Phoenix Marketing International—Financial Services, in a phone interview on Thursday. Uttaro was lead presenter in the Tuesday webinar.

Phoenix’s Financial Services practice assesses ad awareness and effectiveness for retail banking, credit cards, investments and retirement. Participating in the Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based global marketing research firm’s survey were RIAs, planners and brokers from national, regional and independent broker-dealers, as well as advisors from banks and insurance companies.

The following pages include the five best and the five worst of the 30 ads surveyed by advisors based on Phoenix’s “Creative Potential AdPi” rating scale of 0 to 200. Uttaro noted that the average score was 119, with the lowest-rated ad earning a rating of 111 and the highest a rating of 130.

The Best 5 Financial Services Ads Targeted for Advisors

(Click to show full John Hancock ad)

5) John Hancock, “Backstage Pass”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 125

Advisors lauded this John Hancock ad as being clear and to the point, easy to understand and appealing. “I thought it was an encouraging advertisement that built trust and I would recommend this company to my customers. It really was informative,” commented one advisor.

(Click to show full Nationwide Financial ad)

4) Nationwide Financial, “Retire-ophobia”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 125

One advisor gave this Nationwide Financial ad credit for being “informative and clever,” while a second liked the term “retire-ophobia.” “I hear this sentiment from my clients a lot,” the second advisor said.

(Click to show full Franklin Templeton ad)

3) Franklin Templeton, “Time to Wake Up”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 128

Franklin Templeton’s forward-looking message was popular with advisors surveyed by Phoenix, who said the ad focused on “getting people to look at where they are at,” which is the first step in achieving a successful retirement. The ad “takes into account current events and offers solutions” and “hits an important aspect to rebalance client portfolios,” advisors said.

(Click to show full Vanguard ad)

2) Vanguard, “Newspaper”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 128

Advisors believed Vanguard’s ad clearly communicated the firm’s message, showing a trustworthy company that provides customers with good value along with investment research and tools. “It gives me something that all my clients want: The ability to keep more of their earnings,” one advisor commented.

(Click to show full Prudential ad)

1) Prudential, “Only One”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 130

“Prudential hit on the themes of crisp content, advisor support and real-world examples,” said Uttaro. “It was successful because of the crisp layout with bold font and graphic tie-in of padlocks as bullet points referring to Prudential’s daily lock-in. The ad resonated well with advisors because it even had a call to action where the advisor could order a brochure and a toolkit.”

The Worst 5 Financial Services Ads Targeted for Advisors

The following ads, excepting the lowest-rated ad at the bottom of this “worst of five” list, are in no specific order, according to Uttaro.

“We didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes because these were the weakest performers. These individual ads didn’t resonate quite as well,” Uttaro said, adding that Phoenix’s “Creative Potential AdPi” ratings for the worst advisor-targeted ads are available on a private basis to Phoenix’s clients. In general, unsuccessful creative themes included unnecessary text and ineffective graphics.

According to the Phoenix data, the weakest ads didn’t work because of:

  • Too much or too little information
  • Confusing or irrelevant messaging
  • Too much jargon or ineffective use of graphics
  • A lack of supporting messages, which kills credibility

(Click to show full MFS ad)

5) MFS, “Carry the Weight”

While this MFS ad was relatively strong in being persuasive, it did not resonate for “breakthrough creative,” according to the advisors surveyed by Phoenix.

(Click to show full Scottrade ad)

4) Scottrade, “Mission”

The overall impression of advisors surveyed was that Scottrade’s “Mission” ad lacked breakthrough and impact.

(Click to show full TDAmeritrade ad)

3) TDAmeritrade, “Advancing”

TDAmeritrade’s ad promoting advisor services was among the weakest performers in terms of showing “a credible brand,” according to the Phoenix survey.

(Click to show full Allianz ad)

2) Allianz, “One Great Opportunity”

This Allianz ad promoting annuities struggled to evoke “strong persuasion” for advisors, who gave it a low overall likeability.

(Click to show full Lincoln Financial ad)

1) Lincoln Financial, “Trees,”
Phoenix “Creative Potential AdPi” rating: 111

“Lincoln Financial was definitely the worst,” Uttaro said, pointing to the firm’s AdPi rating of 111 versus the 30-ad survey’s average rating of 119. “It struggled from a creative standpoint on all the metrics, including relevancy. It struggled significantly there, and relevancy has been one of the themes or attributes of the best ads that we’ve noticed.”

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