AAG Rolls Out Expansive New Marketing Campaign Featuring Borrowers, Selleck

On Thursday, reverse mortgage industry leader American Advisors Group (AAG) announced the rollout of an expansive new marketing campaign featuring borrower interviews and testimonials, aiming to share the stories of how people can be impacted by a reverse mortgage loan in all aspects of their lives. Some of the new material includes genuine AAG borrowers interviewed by company spokesman Tom Selleck.

The campaign, “Better Lives,” has been in development for over six months and will feature a broad-based strategy to connect with potential clients through online video, a website, social media, and dedicated television advertising. To get a fuller perspective on “Better Lives,” how it was developed and ultimately executed as well as how its announcement relates to recent news, RMD sat down with AAG Vice President of Brand Strategy and Creative Services Eddie Herda to discuss the new campaign.

‘Better Lives’

AAG’s new “Better Lives” campaign is described as a multi-channel advertising marketing campaign that aims to provide a more humanistic look at the reverse mortgage product and the AAG brand, according to Herda.

“[It provides a humanistic look] by bringing the real stories from customers to the forefront,” Herda said. “It will be in print, as well as obviously in television commercials, and both paid and organic social media. It really just leverages the stories from actual borrowers.”

Inspired by letters the company and some of its originators received from borrowers describing how the product made a positive difference in their financial or housing situations, individual borrowers were contacted and asked if they’d be willing to share their stories in the new campaign. To the surprise of those borrowers, some of them were interviewed about their homes and its importance to their lives by Tom Selleck.

Additionally, the approach in the print component of the campaign will be long-form, where additional detail into borrower stories can be shared, Herda explained.

“In print, we’ll be taking the actual stories and delivering them in long-form, story-driven copy,” he said. “[We’re doing that] rather than [strictly] discussing the benefits of the product. We’re actually going to be writing the stories of how [a reverse mortgage] impacted someone’s life. And then obviously, the commercial.”

Advertising for the industry

For many operating in the modern reverse mortgage industry, AAG’s generally ubiquitous advertising has been something that originators benefit from, at least in making clients aware of the product. This is true for those working both within and outside of AAG, as previously explored by RMD. In developing a new campaign that takes a more hybridized approach by using testimonials and the longtime company spokesman, Herda describes this next step as necessary for both AAG and the wider reverse mortgage industry.

“I would say it’s a new approach, and one that we believe is necessary to take not just for AAG, but for the industry as a whole,” he said. “To really start discussing the importance of the use of home equity in retirement, not just from a company’s point of view, or from an Excel spreadsheet, but really from people whose lives have been changed because they were able to take advantage of this financial strategy.”

Testimonial campaigns are certainly not new for the reverse mortgage industry, but taking an approach that aims to deliver an emotional impact to viewers has generally taken a proverbial “backseat” in terms of campaigns seen at both AAG’s competitors as well as in the broader financial services space, Herda said. Instead, this campaign is more directly inspired by some emotional approaches taken by technology companies.

“I think that it’s easy for us to go with what I’ll call the ‘speeds and feeds,’ which is the benefits,” he said. “The improvement of one’s livelihood and lifestyle becomes overshadowed by the speeds and feeds sometimes. It’s not like anything that we haven’t seen in from other brands, technology brands, for example.”

One of the borrower interviews for the “Better Lives” campaign.

Citing an example, Herda described an advertising landscape where some technology brands focused on the specific attributes of a new product’s technical capabilities granted by higher storage capacities or faster performance. A more emotional approach was taken by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2001 when he held up the original iPod music player and told an audience, “this amazing little device holds 1,000 songs, and it goes right in my pocket.”

Taking a similar approach to emotional marketing in financial services could be vital to connecting with new people, Herda says.

“I think it’s important for us, and to the financial sector as a whole to focus on the individual,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, it’s their lives that are impacted.”

Key to that emotional connection will be in the variety of people showcased in the campaign, Herda said. AAG sought out borrowers from a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives to help provide the campaign with a holistic look at how the use of a reverse mortgage could impact all sorts of people in different communities and of various means, describing a series of borrowers profiled in the campaign.

“We wanted to choose a variety of folks who could tell different stories,” Herda said. “[A profiled borrower named] Jack was a chief loan officer; he’s a financial pro. And then another borrower, Dinah, is a retired kindergarten teacher. Linda is a commercial actress. It features people who have diverse backgrounds in terms of their overall lifestyle, the career that they had and then, obviously, the ways that those proceeds were used.”

A half-year in the making

Immediately addressing the proverbial “elephant in the room,” RMD asked about whether or not the rollout of a new advertising campaign was at all influenced by news of a recent settlement reached between AAG and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding the company’s “estimated home values.” Herda explained that the timelines for both the news of the settlement itself and the production timeline for this campaign simply don’t line up.

“To give you context, the commercial shoot happened in June,” Herda said. “And then after June, we went out and we collected additional video testimonial conversations at other borrowers’ homes. […] So obviously, the editing and sound mixing and color corrections, [as well as] building a landing page, getting the survey results, all that stuff took the time that it took.”

Typically, an AAG campaign might have an average turnaround time of around two months, Herda said. He explained that the work on this initiative was far more involved than some of the other campaigns previously spearheaded by the company, necessitating additional time for production and post-production phases to account for a multimedia approach.

“This one just had so many more moving parts,” Herda said. “And so, I think we all wanted to roll it out as a holistic, integrated campaign.”

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