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Principles in print

For many years, a close relationship has existed between financial services and the press and today some 63 per cent of the sector&#39s advertising is placed in print – more than twice the size of any other medium.

Advertisers appreciate a variety of benefits from the press such as the provision of a relevant editorial environment, a greater time limit to advertising exposure and the reader&#39s own brand loyalty.

So, in many ways the press has become the natural home for financial advertising. This is borne out by Mintel research published this year which showed that 30 per cent of adults say a print ad was the initial factor prompting investigation of a financial product.

Deeper inspection of the data reveals that this figure rises to 40 per cent among broadsheet newspaper readers. This provides a further pointer to why the special relationship has strengthened over the years, with financial advertisers&#39 expenditure in the press rising by some 67 per cent in the five years to 2000.

This year, however, has been a difficult year. For a variety of reasons that have been well documented and discussed, advertisers have been withdrawing from the marketplace. Now is the time to take a look at what has undoubtedly been a highly successful relationship to date. At the Telegraph Group we believe some of the elements that have been intrinsic to successful financial advertising in the press seem to have gone missing. We believe there is very real potential for many financial ads to work a great deal harder.

At the heart of this belief are certain fundamentals that apply to this marketplace. The fact that consumers do compare track records, buy on performance (often at the top of the market) and that the prime job of advertising is to generate a direct return, money invested in the advertiser&#39s funds.

Too many of today&#39s ads, however, lack the key response-generating elements as identified in ongoing research among target readers.

These include

A clear buying proposition.

Clarity of message.

Clear corporate identity.

A call to action and a variety of response mechanisms.

These are very simple – obvious even – but too frequently they are absent from campaigns that may often be artful and attention-grabbing but are ultimately uninformative.

The lack of essential information and mechanisms could well be a reaction to suggestions that financial advertising is “dull and boring” – but it does not have to be.

At the Telegraph we are all for brightening up the pages but financial advertising needs to be serious in tone and plentiful in information if it is to persuade consumers to part with their savings.

A closer examination of the research among Daily and Sunday Telegraph readers highlights the importance of often forgotten elements such as including a variety of clear and visible response mechanisms.

Younger people, for instance, want to be able to make an “instant hit” but many older people do not like dealing with machines so unless targeting is very tight, multiple options will usually be required.

Linked with this is the importance of the necessary infrastructure. In these days of 24-hour call centres it may seem incredible but stories have come back to the Telegraph Group of whole batches of responses being lost due to the lack of a long enough tape in an office answering machine.

We have seen how financial services advertising has grown. Now that we are experiencing the first significant downturn for over a decade it is important that all parties do not forget the elementary principles of direct-response advertising.

This can often mean the difference between a successful ad campaign, bringing the client monetary return, and a disillusioning experience.

We must all work together to devise creative solutions, true to the first principles, which have made this category of advertising so successful.


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