Faced with the amiable exit of their long-time television spokesman, One Reverse Mortgage elected to try a pitchman-free ad campaign — and at least so far, it’s bringing the retail lending giant a more serious group of potential leads.
Henry Winkler spent six years as the face of Quicken Loans’ reverse arm, but when the “Happy Days” actor joined the cast of HBO’s “Barry” — a new comedy series due out next year — his contract prevented him from doing any promotional work, according to One Reverse chief marketing officer Kim Schachinger.
“He was very committed to our business, and a wonderful man to work with,” Schachinger said of Winkler, who’s perhaps best known as the Fonz but also familiar to younger comedy fans as the questionably competent lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn on Fox and Netflix’s “Arrested Development.”
Though Schachinger said the door remains open for Winkler to return at any time, One Reverse was forced to confront an immediate need for a new ad campaign. After research showed that seniors were looking for a better reflection of their active lifestyles in retirement pitches, the Detroit-based lending giant took a spokesperson-free approach for its first post-Winkler campaign, instead populating its latest ad with nostalgic images of the past and optimistic images of the present.
“It’s really portraying and putting together a creative commercial that talks to those people in the way they really wanted to be talked to, versus having a spokesperson just sit there and talk,” Schachinger said.
The spot opens with a series of images that evoke the childhoods of people eligible for Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, including both wartime shots and early rock-and-roll dancing geared toward the “greatest generation,” and a young flower child for the baby-boom set.
“You danced in the mud, heard music from Motown, and swung your hips to the sound of rock and roll,” an unseen announcer intones. “You rode your bike for miles, as long as you were home for dinner, and sometimes, you defied the rules.”
The ad, called “Retire Different,” then shows retirement-aged folks engaged in a variety of activities, from kayaking to hiking to surfing. The announcer explains how the home equity line of credit works over footage of an older gentleman in a fedora strumming on a guitar, and at no point does an actor directly address the camera.
In fact, the spot doesn’t mention the term “reverse mortgage” until almost a minute into its two-minute runtime, instead telling viewers about “a unique retirement tool” that “grows over time” and doesn’t require monthly payments. The announcer then goes onto explain how a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage can help borrowers pay off an exiting forward mortgage and provide extra money for other expenses.
The ad also runs through some common alternative retirement uses for the HECM line of credit, such as extending savings by delaying the use of other funds or providing a safety net “for unexpected expenses — or unexpected fun.”
One Reverse’s approach stands in stark contrast to industry leader American Advisors Group’s continued dedication to the spokesman format: Just last week, the Orange, Calif.-based lender rolled out its third advertisement starring “Blue Bloods” actor Tom Selleck, who has served as AAG’s official spokesman since 2016. The “Magnum, P.I.” star succeeded actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, who died in 2015; before Thompson, “Mission: Impossible” actor Peter Graves served as the face of AAG until his death in 2010.
Reverse mortgage firms have historically used older, respected actors to provide an air of legitimacy and trust when marketing the products to consumers: When AAG announced its partnership with Selleck, AAG chief creative officer Teague McGrath cited the actor’s “widespread recognition and respect” across age demographics.
The New York Times even recently got into the act, profiling the advertising efforts of reverse mortgage firms and other companies that market primarily to older Americans, such as Colonial Penn — which has long used “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek in its commercials for life insurance products.
But once their pitchman-less ad was completed, One Reverse assembled a focus group of seniors who responded positively to the celebrity-free format, Schachinger said, connecting with the nostalgic images and the depiction of an active retirement.
“They liked that it didn’t have a spokesperson in it,” Schachinger said. “They liked that it didn’t have a talking head telling them about the benefits, and used a lifestyle approach to showcase what this product can allow them to do in their lives.”
One Reverse began running the ad in a range of senior-focused slots last month, including on cable networks such as TV Land, CNN, Fox News, and Game Show Network — as well as on CBS during episodes of “The Price is Right.” And though Schachinger said it was too early to provide detailed figures, the lender’s sales team has seen higher conversion rates since the introduction of the new campaign.
“The callers we are getting are qualified, educated people that are very interested in the product,” Schachinger said.
Written by Alex Spanko