Industry Smarts

Compare The Pair

I’m sure you’ve all seen the ‘Compare the Pair’ ads, where two workers from the same sector discuss their superannuation balances before their projected benefits are compared. The ads end with the industry fund ‘winners’ hand signal to mirror the industry super fund symbol.

After a successful campaign in 2005, Industry Super Australia (ISA) used the 10 year anniversary to relaunch the campaign earlier this year. While the 2005 advertisements focused on the long term impact of sales commissions paid to financial advisers, the new campaign compared the difference the last decade would have made to a person’s superannuation balance had they switched to an industry super fund.

There is no doubt that the simplicity of the ads successfully delivers on the message of ‘low fees and no adviser commissions’, but have they picked the wrong ‘pair’ to compare?

When the campaign first launched in 2005, the SMSF sector represented one-tenth (10%) of superannuation monies in Australia. Fast forward to 2014 and this has grown to nearly a third of the $1.8 trillion held in superannuation.

While the industry and retail funds continue to engage in battle through both the media and in the courts, the SMSF sector continues its meteoric rise. Most of the monies pouring into the SMSF coffers come from both industry and retail funds; and the rapid growth seems to be showing no signs of slowing. Yet the ‘Compare the Pair’ concept suggests there are only two choices for Australian workers.

The SMSF sector certainly hasn’t been given a free ride. The past couple of years have seen various bodies from unions to politicians warning about the dangers of self-managed super funds fuelling a property bubble and distorting equity markets. But does such talk resonate with the average punter?

I’d suggest not. In what’s been called ‘the age of entitlement’, the notion of self-interest tends to override any concern one may have for the greater good. Particularly when such self-interest hits the hip pocket.

The industry versus retail battle has parallels across the political landscape, where if you’re spend all your time telling someone why they should vote for the other guy, they often end up choosing neither. This is especially true in the world if super, where setting up an SMSF effectively allows you to vote for yourself.

So wouldn’t picking a fight with the SMSF sector be doing the same thing?

Maybe so, but the message would at least be new and perhaps more relevant to the target market. Consider the following ad: a middle aged man wakes up to find a leaking pipe in the kitchen. His wife tells him to call a plumber, but he decides that’s too expensive and he can play home-handyman. Fast forward two hours and the man is knee deep in water and up the proverbial creek. His DIY attempt has failed, and he now needs to call in the plumber to fix his mess.

A separate campaign could also focus on ‘bringing people back’ who were lured by the DIY bug, but have subsequently found that the cost and burden of self-management is too cumbersome.
Sometimes enemies need to join forces if they are to both survive. Perhaps it’s time for the industry and retail sector to put down the gloves, and focus on the new kid on the block. Not through the courts or via complex financial terminology, but with a simple message: if you can’t fix a leaky tap, do you really trust yourself to manage your financial future?

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