Tips for Art Directors

Does glossy creative for insurance or banking work well? What about illustrations and cartoons?

Art direction is much more critical in the field of financial advertising and direct marketing than many people imagine. As Drayton Bird, former International Creative Director and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather said, “It is a big mistake to make your packages look too commercial, advertising-y or glossy.”

Financial Advertising is Serious Business

Financial products do well when sold in an appropriately financial manner. They should not be glossy. Often a simple convincing letter together with the relevant Questions and Answers covered in an application form will do better than anything more elaborate. Perhaps this is due to the serious nature of financial advertising. The prospect is expected to part with his hard-earned money.

Says Bird: “I learned this years ago when I produced an insert to sell insurance to a bank’s customers. It did very well. My insert had a typical advertising layout. A much more experienced American creative took the package. He changed it only slightly. The copy was virtually the same, but he made it look more of a financial offer. More official, less slick and commercial. He got much better results.”

Do Illustrations Work in an Insurance Ad?

According to Bird, the art director should never put in pictures which are not essential. Pictures are expensive and unless they are necessary, they will do little or nothing to improve response. They may even reduce it by getting in the way. It is, of course, good to put in human interest where appropriate.

“A face or a spokesman’s picture can help,” says Bird. “A convincing spokesman, for example, an ex-TV newsreader or an acknowledged financial expert – but not a show business type – can be very successful by inspiring trust. In particular, beware of negative pictures. Believe me, pictures of people lying in bed in the hospital are not the greatest turn-on in the world.”

Some art directors who pride themselves on their drawing skills tend to sneak cartoons into the creative. They actually believe that entertaining the customer will make him more likely to part with his money. But not according to Bird who advises, “Be very careful about cartoons. I have never seen them work even when I thought them appropriate. Neither hard-earned money nor the possibility of a mishap is particularly entertaining to most people.”

Stick to Sound Direct Marketing Practice

This is what Bird suggests if the agency wants to succeed and make money, and art direction has a big role to play in this success. Financial ads and direct mail must not have a commercial appearance. They should not be glossy or contain illustrations that do not serve a function, or they will reduce response.

Financial advertising is serious business as it asks customers to part with their hard-earned money. Therefore, on no account should art directors be tempted to use cartoons. It is a good idea to add some human interest such as a face or the picture of a convincing spokesman. The pictures used should be positive. They should not incite fear.