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I’m a PR guy, but I love looking at adverts from the financial services and B2B world, trying to work out what’s the utility and effectiveness for the advertiser. The first print ad in The Economist this week is for LGT, the private bank owned by the ruling princely house of Liechtenstein.  This is a new advert as part of its long-running “values” campaign. Some of the previous adverts in the campaign, featuring clients and staff, can be seen here:

The new advert is not yet online, so let me tell you that it features a big picture of LGT board member H.S.H. Prince Hubertus von und zu Liechtenstein, who is quoted saying:

“Our investment competence is based on 26 generations of experience” 

Here’s my visceral reaction:

  • Most people couldn't care much about 26 generations (referring to 26 generations of the princely family in the tiny mountain state). 
  • The phrase “investment competence” is not a phrase that you would commonly use in English. To me, it’s clearly written and approved by people whose first language is German not English. The German word and the English word sound virtually identical but are used subtly differently.  No-one would talk about their “swimming competence” or their “media relations competence”.
  • The fact that H.S.H. stands for His Serene Highness will be lost on virtually every reader. 
  • At the bottom of the advert, there is a clever device showing that the bank is 100 years old this year.  I’m not sure it is so easy to grasp visually, but perhaps more importantly, it introduces 100 years as a competing reference point alongside 26 generations as a period of history.     

My snobby criticisms are however utterly beside the point if print advertising in The Economist is the most effective means of reaching LGT's target audience, which may be a tiny fraction of those seeing the ad.  That’s the nature of private banking and marketing to ultra high net worth people. It doesn’t even need every rich person to like it, it just needs enough to like the concept of generations of investment management along with stability, values and perhaps a noble background.

Such brand advertising is notoriously hard to prove the value of, though I’m sure the Economist ad sales team and the marketing team at LGT do their very best.  What’s important is to try and park your prejudices about what marketing and advertising may work for a particular firm.

In addition, just because you can’t measure something easily, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do.  LGT, ultimately, needs to judge the success of the campaign in the round.  And for me anyway, it’s a good thing there is diversity in the types of firms providing investment management and private banking, and diversity in their adverts.  Too many adverts look very similar now, and that’s not a good thing.  I’d love to see the internal data analysing this campaign.  But in the meantime, long live the House of Liechtenstein.

Andrew Marshall is the vice chairman of Cognito