Midas Awards Grand Jury Spotlight Interview: Gregory Yates

The Midas Grand Jury is instrumental in selecting the World's Best Financial Advertising. This all-star jury of award-winning creative executives is recruited from the most prominent agencies and corporations in the world of financial advertising. They come to the judging table with enviable experience, brilliant creative chops and dedication to the industry. 

This week the Midas Awards shines the spotlight on Gregory Yates, Chief Marketing Officer for RICG®, an NYC based agency focused on modern analytics, journey personalization, creative and neuroscience marketing applications. In his 20 years in the industry, Mr. Yates has built new brands and rescued stale brands falling out of vogue.

In the interview below, Midas spent a few minutes with Gregory. Keep reading to find outhis thoughts on the biggest challenge to working in financial advertising, his views on how the industry has changed, what inspires him and what he’d be doing if he wasn’t working in advertising, and much more.

Midas Awards: What is your opinion of the Midas Awards? What makes the competition stand out?

Gregory Yates: The Midas Awards is one of  the most competitive events to participate in on a global scale and across cultures. The judges are global, diligent, non forgiving and talented strategists themselves, therefore they understand the attributes that qualify what makes a campaign great and worthy of praise against its peers regardless of region.

Midas Awards: Can you comment on the international reach of the Midas Awards?

Gregory Yates: We are in a global economy and I define being the best by competing against the best which to me makes the awards even more valuable and exciting top win. Competing on a global scale is exciting and running against other cultures is a wonderful learning experience for brands. One can get insight into strategy, their storytelling approach, the evolution of technological advancement, or lack thereof across the globe from like brands that are all ultimately trying to achieve the same types of objectives. 

Midas Awards:  Why did you agree to participate on the Midas Awards Grand Jury?

Gregory Yates: I love what the Midas Awards celebrate and on a global scale. It enables financial services brands to enter their works and truly compete in a global economy making the win even more spectacular.

Midas Awards:  What do you look for when determining whether a campaign is successful and award-winning?

Gregory Yates: Do you understand the real attributes and needs of the audience you are targeting.  What audience analysis was conducted prior. Does it makes sense and is it aligned to the DNA of your brand.  Does it tell a story? Is it clear, is it compelling, is it articulated well, is it creative, does it emote and does it have an intangible wow factor. Does the creative depict a story in itself that aligns with the overarching message. How did you leverage technology, or if traditional media was used what was the approach. What goals were you trying to achieve, did you achieve them and how was the campaign optimized over time. Lastly, does it make me think “what a great idea, I should have come up with it."

Midas Awards:  Is it difficult to judge work from other countries around the globe? What are the challenges and benefits?

Gregory Yates: Great work is great work and transcends cultural differences.  The only challenges is being versed in the specific vernacular of the particular region, or slang used and current pop, or subcultures or the cultural events taking place real-time. The benefits include seeing a diverse set of creative communications and what works across the globe in each respective regional marketplace.

Midas Awards: What’s the biggest challenge to working in financial advertising?

Gregory Yates: One of the larger challenges is breaking down the walls of legacy thinking within larger organizations and proving more technologically inclined programs can drive vast results. Even though brands may convey they want to experiment, they quite often will remain reserved. As it pertains to reaching audiences, many aspects of the business are commoditized and your value proposition has to stand out and resonate authentically with fickle audiences to initiate a conversation turned conversion. With the increase in personalized communications the feat in one respect can beneficial, but also daunting in building a complex multi-layer communications strategy.

Midas Awards:  How has financial advertising changed since you started working in the industry?

Gregory Yates: The industry finally began embracing new, more cutting-edge methods in advertising that include content, 360 degree video, social, edgier design and more integrated storytelling approach. Additionally, as data became more widely available, brands started shifting from pushing a forced brand message, to better understanding their audiences’ needs and building campaigns with solutions surrounding those individual needs to further engagement. Furthermore, brands are starting to even further understand the power of human emotion and employ neuroscience techniques to craft more personalized communications.

Midas Awards: How has technology impacted creative in the financial advertising industry? What brands have utilized technology in a unique way to attract the digital consumer?

Gregory Yates: The proliferation of technology continues to significantly change the landscape, and has event changed the marketing paradigm for Financial Services. From data, to new storytelling tools and formats, to analytics, to distribution channels, to the ability to communicate faster with your audience, automation tools and more. In one respect technology is a facilitator, but in the other overwhelming with all options and capabilities not to mention the vetting and testing process. Technology has created a new matrix and those who grasp and harness its power will prevail.  At RICG, technology is enabling us to create extremely personalized communications with the use of Neuroscience techniques which better understands the emotions of audiences, their sentiments and overall motivations towards brands and their product set. Brands utilizing technology include: OppenheimerFunds, AmexOpen, Schwab, Citi and Venmo to name a few.

Midas Awards: What’s on the horizon for financial marketing and advertising?

Better use and understanding of data and how to use it to further customized communications especially as everything is becoming connected and more personalized in real-time. The use of neuroscience, and applied “on-the-go” biometrics to better understand emotions, sentiment and motivations of clients in real-time to increase targeting capabilities and further insight into attribution modeling and client value models. Marketing more towards Millennials and Women investors as both cohorts are incredibly impactful and already are/becoming high-value customers.

Midas Awards: What is your favorite financial advertising campaign and why?

Gregory Yates: OppenheimerFunds "Invest In A Beautiful World.” I love what this campaign emotes. It tells a story of optimism, juxtaposed with beautiful/bold imagery and intelligent copy that conveys the principals of the brand, its investment philosophy, but also intrigues the mind. The campaign is a thought catalyst and gets viewers to imagine the importance of natural upstream elements in relation to the more popular downstream components. Additionally, the experimental, and experiential, use of Neuroscience to better understand their audience, in concert with storytelling technology, to convey the brand’s communications surpassed the traditional status quo in financial services.

Midas Awards: What inspires you?

Gregory Yates: People.  People are fascinating and their individual stories can wonderfully inspire. Art.  All forms of art (visual, audible, etc) is creative, isn’t safe and can take you on an emotional journey and out of your current consciousness which opens your mind to thoughts, ambitions, excitement and passion. Possibility. Living with the notion that everything is possible is quite inspiring. It removes boundaries, or perceived limitations and creates a feeling of excitement that no matter how arduous the task, there is the ability to strive and attain.

Midas Awards: What would you be doing if you weren’t working in advertising?

Gregory Yates: Sitting on a beach drinking a Corona… Seriously, being originally from the music industry, I’d still find myself in a storytelling capacity. As much as one may consider what we are doing as purely advertising, I believe we are underwriting the evolution of advancement in technology, communications et al. Furthermore, I’d find myself spending more time writing books, further studying neuroscience and producing music.

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