Assante’s robo-advisor rebuttal

Who: Assante Wealth Management, Promotivate (creative and media) and Orange Lounge (production).

What: A pointed advertising campaign called “This is why we are here,” with client testimonials explaining why—contrary to some competitor advertising—human financial advisors help people manage their money better.

When & Where: The ad campaign broke in February, with a TV buy heavy in sports, along with out-of-home and a small social media buy. A new wave of content will roll out through social soon.

How: Very earnest, straightforward ads show Assante advisors reading or listening to detailed thank-you notes from a client explaining how much better their life is because of help from their advisor. These are human beings telling human stories to other humans. When was the last time someone sent a thank you note to their robo-advisor? Here’s one ad, with the other two below.

Why: In part, this is about amplifying positive feedback from clients who, when going through significant life transitions—sale of a business, divorce, second marriage, pending retirement, etc.—benefited from the advice and assistance they got from Assante advisors, said Tricia Shaw, vice-president, marketing and wealth services.

But this is also undeniably about responding to trends in the marketplace and competitive, big budget, robo-advisor marketing—like this and, more directly, this. “Certainly we wanted to be a counterpoint to the negativity surrounding financial advice, and it is not just competitors—there are a lot of regulatory changes in many respects that devalue advice,” she said. “Value is being defined as a function of price, and it is far more complex than that.”

So you talked specifically about the Questrade ads? “We talk about just the competitive marketplace and how it is shifting in general,” said Shaw. “Certainly their ads are very prevalent and you can’t miss them. And they point to questions in the marketplace that are good questions to ask.” If someone doesn’t have a good relationship with their advisor then those ads are really going to resonate, she said. “We think we serve a different area of the market, we have a high-level service standard for our clients.”

The Assante message: Digital is here to stay and Assante has a digital platform, said Shaw. The Assante campaign is about a different kind of service—helping clients make big decisions at important life moments. The marketing from the other guys is more specifically about long-play, low involvement, low-fee investing. “But some of the messaging about the cost of human advisors negates the real impact a good advisor can have,” she said. When people don’t understand estate and/or complicated tax issues, they need a full-service advisor to help them. The Assante campaign doesn’t say robo-advisors are bad; it does say you need real human assistance too.

About the style: “We said ‘How do we take what we have learned from our clients and translate it into copy that will work on air?’ And we wanted it to be as authentic as possible… It was important to have the voice of our clients in the commercials even if they weren’t physically in the commercials,” she said. Assante put a call out to clients asking for stories and experiences about working with Assante advisors. The clients chosen had full interviews posted to the Assante site.

What’s next? Advisors and employees filming their own “this is why I’m here” moments. “We had a lot of employees and advisors emailing after seeing the ads on TV and they were so empowered, like ‘Yes, this is why I’m here.’ As we got those messages, we thought, ‘this is something here.’”

David Brown