Why Prudential’s chief brand officer believes in-house media team drives efficiency, consistency and agility

Prior to 2020, Prudential’s ad spending was erratic. The brand would spend for a short period around a campaign and then stop when said campaign period was over. Then it would rinse and repeat that process.

In recent years, Prudential has retooled its approach to be more even with spend which in turn has led to efficiencies, according to chief brand officer Richard Parkinson, who credits the shift to the brand’s in-house media team.   

“The one biggest change we’ve made is consistency,” said Parkinson. “If you look at our spend, previous to 2020, it was very on/off, on/off, on/off and what we’ve brought is a much more consistent spend to our media. You’ve got to be there when people may need you. Consistency has worked in our favor.” 

The nearly 150-year-old financial brand has a 15-person media team within its in-house shop, which has roughly 80 members total working on brand strategy, creative and content marketing. The brand takes a hybrid approach to in-housing – the common approach among major marketers now – working with external shops like McCann to get the benefits of in-house as well as external agency perspectives. 

Changing the approach to media buying and planning has shifted from “reacting” to opportunities and questioning whether or not the brand should do something to a “much more long-term approach enables us to get better deals and plan for the future,” said Parkinson. “Because [media buying is] all in-house we can respond to what the business wants.” 

With taking a more long-term and consistent approach to the media buying and planning process, the brand has increased its ad spend. It’s unclear how much the brand has increased its spending as Parkinson declined to share specific figures. Throughout 2022, Prudential spent $87.3 million on advertising, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics, which also found that throughout the first quarter of 2023 the brand spent $15.7 million on advertising. 

“We have a big media mix – we’re on television, we are in programmatic, we are across channels,” said Parkinson. “We’re improving in customer experience. That investment has been great and consistent. That consistency is why we’re being perceived differently. We have had good increases in our spend. It’s not just a case of spending more for the sake of it but spending in a much more efficient way to get the best return for it.” 

Aside from consistency, Prudential has also tweaked its approach to digital to focus on its various audiences as the brand not only has business-to-consumer messaging but business-to-business messaging for financial advisors. 

“We’ve found that [targeting those audiences] across digital has been super effective for us,” said Parkinson. “Maybe two or three years ago, we didn’t have that muscle.” 

Parkinson continued: “We’ve been able to tailor messages to those specific audiences to target them at the right times with programmatic [ads]. When we’re talking more B2C, we use mass media but we are there when our audiences are there. We’re much more careful with that approach. That’s why you see us lean into live sports. We’ve not only segmented the audiences but targeted them more efficiently.” 

For a brand like Prudential with specific audiences and the nuance complexities of the financial world, it makes sense to take a hybrid approach to marketing, according to Hanif Perry, partner at brand strategy consultancy Prophet. Perry added that while there are “pros and cons” to each model the “benefit of agility” when it comes to in-house appeals to many marketers. 

“External agencies – we use McCann – provide a different perspective to the work we’re doing,” said Parkinson. “Having the internal creative team, having the benefit of external agencies also really helps. Internally it allows the media buying team to work with creative and work with the brand strategy teams so that we can execute really quickly. It’s the speed and consistency of things that we’ve been able to do. It’s got an engine to it.”


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