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Banker Glamour

prudentialPrudential is dressing up its retirement services in a red-carpet gown, reports Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal (5/15/14). Okay, the gown is not actually made of red carpet, but it was worn by actress Naomi Watts and “created by Marchesa in collaboration with Francesca Azzara, a retired new Jersey real-estate agent who at 61, is finally getting a shot at her dream of working as a fashion designer.” The big idea, courtesy of ad agency Droga5, is to use fashion’s allure among today’s younger consumers in hopes of selling them on retirement services later on.

“Fashion rose to the top because it’s hip,” says Prudential advertising chief Colin McConnell. “It’s part of pop culture, which is a hard place for a financial brand to get traction.” The message is that Prudential “can help retirees chase their dreams, and is banking on the novelty of the gown’s backstory to go viral on social media. It is also buying supporting radio and billboard ads.

Francesca, the story goes, “was discovered by a casting agent while dining with her husband at a Manhattan restaurant … She fit the bill for what Droga5 sought: a financially comfortable retiree who once had a dream of designing glamorous clothing.” She attended the “Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for 17 years designing children’s apparel before quitting to raise her son,” and later became a real-estate agent. Marchesa recruited Naomi Watts to wear the gown at the Cannes film festival.