HW Media connects and informs decision makers across the housing economy. Professionals rely on HW Media for breaking news, reporting, and industry data and rankings. Moving the Housing Market Forward.
American Advisors GroupFinance of America ReverseHECMMarketingNewsReverse Mortgage

How The Biggest Reverse Mortgage Lenders Strategize TV Marketing

When it comes to breaking the stereotype on the tried-and-true reverse mortgage commercial, two of the industry’s largest lenders are pushing boundaries and finding news ways to educate the public on reverse mortgages. But one area where they do differ is when it comes to how they buy and manage their media.

This summer, both American Advisors Group (AAG) and Finance of America Reverse (FAR) released new ad campaigns. AAG took the more traditional approach by having Tom Selleck as the company’s spokesman, but simplified and streamlined the lingo, and took the production quality of the commercial to a hollywood level.

On the other hand, FAR debuted its new campaign, “It just Makes Sense”, which focuses on real life situations and explains the reverse mortgage product in a straight-forward, easy to comprehend way.

Both companies are seeing tremendous success with the ad campaigns, but are managing the commercial spaces with different focuses.

When it comes to media buying for TV commercial slots, there are three ways to purchase it, explains Tom Evans, VP of marketing at FAR.

“You can buy traditional media, which is an upfront rate for however many of seconds,” he says. “There’s also remnant media, which you can buy after everyone buys their traditional media and it is usually sold at a lower cost. Third, there is per inquiry, which is charged based on the response the ad gets. So you may not know where the commercial is going, but the agency will place it for you and will only be charged if it receives positive responses.”

Buying strategies

AAG takes the fast and furious approach and has a dedicated media buyer in-house who watches the TV ad spaces all day long, Teague McGrath, chief creative officer at AAG, tells RMD.

“Big brands usually buy the advertising upfront either months, or as much as a year, in advance,” he says. “The media buyers are given a budget and they have to reach a certain amount of eyes, according to ratings and audience members, but we don’t do that because it’s not efficient or affordable. To a certain degree, one specific spot can sometimes have no value and you could be stuck with it.”

So, AAG purchases media spots as they go. The company bases its placement of ads on numerous components and analytics including media cycles, weather cycles and even senior events happening in various communities.

When purchasing commercial spots, McGrath shares that they frequently wait until the last minute and bid on the remaining spots left on certain channels. As it gets closer and closer to air time, the price drops and AAG can buy it for usually one-fifth of the price.

“Our approach is much different. We could be bidding on a spot that’s going on at 7:34 tonight, for example, and it’s kind of like a silent auction,” McGrath says. “It’s an auction with other buyers who are all deciding whether it’s worth it to bid or not to secure the airtime, and this can be happening all the way up to a few hours before it [the commercial] is set to air.”

For FAR, the strategy is a bit different. “We primarily do all of our buying through the agencies,” Evans says. “Most large companies are not placing their own media ads.” But they do purchase in a variety of methods from traditional buying to per inquiry buying — it just isn’t done in-house.

Different from AAG’s strategy, FAR purchases a media plan and will test it over the course of at least three months.

This way, the company is able to get a more in-depth look into what is working and what isn’t for certain spots because they run multiple commercials on the same channel around the same time. So even a commercial that is the exact same version as another may have a bit of a different voiceover or be edited slightly different to see how they perform against one another.

“It can get very granular comparing each version of every commerical,” Evans explains. “ But after comparing about six different spots that all have slightly different looks and feels, then we choose the one that will be the baseline and do our AB testing against that one.”


Though AAG and FAR differ on both of their buying strategies, one thing that they both have in common is how they track each commercial spot. Every single commercial that is aired on TV and online by AAG and FAR have individual 800 numbers to track how each specific ad is performing and where exactly leads are coming from.

Evans and McGrath can both agree that tracking each commercial with individual 800 numbers is the most important aspect of the media buying process, because without them, you can’t tell where your leads are coming from or where you may need to shift some things around.

“You have to be scientific about your approach to TV, but you also need to invest in creative capital,” says Evans. “You have to mix up your chemicals and come up with an emotional and evocative commercial.”

Written by Alana Stramowski