Reverse Mortgage Lenders Keep Their TV Spokesmen, Refine Strategy

Reverse mortgage TV ads have long been the driving force behind building awareness for the loans as well as educating the general public about the ins and outs of the products.

Those advertisements often hinge on the voice of a celebrity spokesperson, as in the case of Robert Wagner (Urban Financial) or Fred Thompson (American Advisors Group), and on the testimonials of reverse mortgage borrowers.

While lenders are consistently adapting their messages to reach consumers, the market may now be coming around to the products enough for lenders to move toward a more brand-focused approach.

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American Advisors Group, which is rolling out a new campaign featuring borrower testimonials, notes the turning point.

“AAG didn’t use testimonials previous to this new spot because we felt it was more important to build brand awareness and credibility before showing our happy customers to other consumers,” says Teague McGrath, director of marketing for AAG.

Other companies are altering their campaigns as well.

In a male-dominated reverse mortgage TV world, One Reverse is taking a step in a different direction. The San Diego, Calif.-based lender recently landed I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden to appear in a commercial coming this fall.

“In many cases, women drive the financial decisions of the household,” Schachinger says. “As a result, it made sense to test women decision-makers.”

Education, however, will remain a cornerstone, Schachinger says.

“There has been a good amount of reverse mortgage advertising in the past few years helping to educate consumers, [but] many of them still ask a lot of questions and require additional attention to make them comfortable with the product. The objective of our advertising is to not only educate but reinforce One Reverse Mortgage.”

With education as the cornerstone, the message of established brands such as those represented by Robert Wagner remains.

“Over the years, the Wagner campaign has been the flagship for educating consumers on the potential benefits of a reverse mortgage,” says Jason Levy, Head of Retail Division and Brand Management, Urban Financial Group. “Urban’s brand mission is to not only attract a potential customer with a call to action message, but rather have the senior community call because of our brand educational awareness.”

But with that education under way, comes a new opportunity to shift practices, as AAG is doing.

“We always had this spot in mind as part of a staged brand awareness strategy,” says McGrath of the new campaign. “Build a sense of who AAG is, back it up with good service levels and origination numbers proving we walk the walk, then follow up with borrowers who have had a positive experience with an AAG and showcase this to the public. It is proving very successful for us.”

The education is causing AAG to reassess some past strategies as well.

“People have a much better understanding of the product now than they did even 12 months ago. It means the DVD and brochures we send out aren’t as relevant as before.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker