Emotive storytelling has become a hallmark of Allan Gray’s television commercials and its latest campaign does not disappoint. The commercial, part of an integrated brand campaign produced in partnership with King James II, tells an emotional story of the benefits of delayed gratification.

Set in the 1950s, the commercial tells the story of an SA family guided by a disciplined – and what appears to be an overly strict – father, over a five-decade period. From the time that the children are young they are required to hand over a portion of their earnings – much to their dismay. Told from the perspective of the son, the father takes a portion of the boy’s earnings throughout his life. It’s only once his father dies that it is revealed that the father kept a careful record of every single transaction and the money is returned.

The commercial fits into Allan Gray’s brand positioning, which is long-term investing, explains Zwelethu Nkosi, head of brand & advertising at Allan Gray, and is a perfect illustration of the discipline, patience and commitment that is required for long-term investing. “One of our core philosophies is that investments take time and patience is rewarded,” she says.

Financial services advertising is often criticised for using emotive storytelling that does little to reveal the brand’s differentiation. In Allan Gray’s case, says Nkosi, the brand has made a conscious decision to use television to convey the emotional aspects of the brand. “Asset management can be a complex concept to communicate, which is why we convey our brand philosophy in very human terms in a way that everybody can understand, in an effort the demystify the subject,” she says.

“Storytelling has long been the way that we achieve this. It’s hard to convert somebody to your brand if it doesn’t resonate with them. We use television commercials to connect emotionally with consumers so that they fall in love with our brand and then we use other elements of the marketing mix to communicate the more rational elements of our brand message.”

For a commercial of this nature to resonate with audiences it has to be culturally relevant and avoid appearing condescending in any way. Research was a key element of this campaign, says Nkosi, adding that from a marketing perspective, the company spent time putting together a concise brief in terms of what they were trying to achieve and communicate. “The central theme around this campaign was that of delayed gratification and tying that into the benefits of long-term investing.”

Cognisant of the fact that the commercial needed to be created in a culturally sensitive and respectful manner, actors John Kani and Mabutho Sithole were recruited to provide accurate historical and cultural detail.

According to research conducted by Kantar in the UK and released last year, financial services brands are ignoring women in their advertising – to their detriment. Far from ignoring the role of women, says Nkosi, this commercial – in true African tradition – features the mother as the matriarch and backbone of the family who at all times knows – and approves – exactly what her husband is doing. “It’s a simple story set in a particular historical and cultural context, which I think will resonate with all audiences,” she concludes.

The big take-out

 Brands need to resonate with consumers before they can connect with them. Allan Gray’s latest television commercial tells a universal story in a uniquely South African way to communicate the asset management firm’s investment philosophy in order to get consumers to connect with the brand.

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