Financial Word

Lucian Camp

Brand & Marketing Consultant

Lucian Camp Consulting

Lucian Camp passes on some tips for those trying to be creative in the tricky world of financial advertising.
I spent sixteen years being a creative director, and in that time I learned lots of things. Many are of little use to anyone except perhaps those just becoming creative directors – like how to avoid making a fool of yourself at creative awards judging sessions, and which bars to be seen in when attending the Cannes advertising festival.
But along the way, I did pick up four or five points about the most important part of the job, which is of course finding reasonably intelligent-sounding things to say when people ask for your comments on their creative ideas. And on the assumption that people sometimes ask you for your comments on their creative ideas, I thought I might pass those four or five points on to you.
1. Shouldn’t we try to do something more interesting?
Empirical evidence shows this is the comment you should make most often. The trouble with most financial services creative work is that it just isn’t anything like interesting enough. Those responsible for approving creative ideas work themselves into quivering masses of anxiety about the exact form of words in the fourth paragraph of the body copy, without worrying for a moment about the fact that 99% of readers won’t give the ad more than the most cursory of glances before looking for something more interesting. Things are a little easier on television, which is a more intrusive medium, but in print by far and away the greatest danger your communication faces is that people won’t bother to pay attention to it.
2. It’s risky to focus on the negative
A long time ago, I sat next to an old-fashioned advertising copywriter who used to pass on headlines and body copy to his art director together with little notes about how he imagined the ads’ visuals. Trouble was, his visual imagination wasn’t anything to write home about. “Show picture of man with pleasant expression,” his note would say. “Headline: You’ll be comfortably off with Bloggs Investments.”
From this, I learned that the positive side of a financial services proposition usually isn’t anything much to look at. Being comfortably off. Making a successful visit to a bank’s branch. Being insured. Enjoying a pleasant retirement. None of these concepts brings any riveting visuals to mind. But the negative, well, that’s much more exciting. Instead of showing someone comfortably off, let’s show someone who’s miserably poor. Instead of showing a successful visit, let’s show the bank branch from hell. Let’s show the desperate plight of someone who’s uninsured when his house burns down, and so on.
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