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Zulu Alpha Kilo on collaborating with con man Frank Abagnale for HomeEquity Bank

The Catch the Scam platform was created as a masterclass to teach retirees the very scams they are being targeted with

Zulu Alpha Kilo won the ‘Finance and Professional Services’ category at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021 with its campaign for HomeEquity Bank. Here, the team behind the winning entry share the secrets of this successful project.

The challenge

HomeEquity Bank (HEB) provides Canadians aged 55 and over with reverse mortgages as a source of retirement income. The bank’s brand purpose is to give people the freedom to live retirement their way by retiring in the homes they love. Fraud prevention among its customer base is a major issue that HEB has taken a leadership position on in the past few years.

During the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, financial fraud aimed at Canadian seniors increased significantly. As people were forced to spend more time indoors because of the nationwide lockdown, criminals targeted seniors using telephone and online scams, costing them millions. As numerous news outlets reported, the pandemic has created a perfect storm for scammers seeking to defraud panicked, isolated and emotionally vulnerable targets. Research commissioned by HEB confirmed that among Canadians 55 and older, 91% felt they were more vulnerable to fraud. Over half of those respondents revealed they’d already been targeted by scammers in some form or fashion.

HEB wanted to address this in a way that was responsive, genuinely helpful and true to the brand it was building.

Our challenge: help seniors protect themselves from scammers and reinforce HEB’s profile as an advocate for retirees at a period of time when Covid-19 has made them especially vulnerable.

The strategy

The pandemic spurred on the behavior at the root of the problem, but it also pointed to the solution.

One of the pandemic’s most interesting developments was the dramatic increase in the amount of time spent online. Popular online educational company MasterClass even reported a 100% increase in subscribers as people took the opportunity to learn new skills from leading experts in their field, be it cooking, business, music or writing – whatever it was that interested them. Suddenly, people were being taught subjects that were quite new to them. From there, it was a quick leap to our insight: if you can learn the scam, you can catch the scam before it’s too late.

The Catch the Scam platform was created as a masterclass to teach retirees the very scams they are being targeted with.

For this idea to really break through, we’d need a teacher that delivered both credibility and charm. So we hired history’s most notorious con man: Frank Abagnale.

Today he’s a world-class security expert, but Abagnale is also a former con man, notably portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit film Catch Me If You Can. In his time as a criminal, Abagnale stole over $2.5m from banks and led authorities on a global manhunt.

Using his experience on both sides of the law and a content-driven strategy fusing education and entertainment, we showed retirees how to recognize scams in real time.

The campaign

We emulated the MasterClass format and created a content hub of long-form content online; Catch the Scam is a digital platform for seniors to educate themselves on how to protect themselves against fraud. Each instalment begins with Abagnale setting up a particular scam before he dives deeper into its psychological and financial mechanics. Along the way, he infuses the content with his infamous charm and wit, providing the high degree of watchability needed to ensure viewership.

The content was delivered as a series through YouTube and Facebook. Each Catch the Scam episode focuses on scams that target Canadian retirees. They include:

  • The Grandparent Scam – scammers pose as a victim’s grandchild in need of cash.

  • The Lottery Scam – scammers lead victims to believe they’ve actually won money.

  • The Romance Scam – scammers romantically charm victims out of large sums of money.

  • The CRA Scam – scammers pose as Canada’s federal tax agency to collect back taxes.

The user experience merged entertainment and education. By making the information about scamming highly watchable, we increased the odds that viewers would complete the entire online series.

The results

Catch the Scam generated over 1.2m unique views on YouTube and Facebook from an audience that typically skews towards traditional media.

The campaign generated significant top-tier broadcast and online media coverage across Canada and beyond with more than 35m earned media impressions. Frank Abagnale, the campaign’s celebrity teacher, was interviewed on national stations, like Global News, BNN Bloomberg and Yahoo! News, as networks looked to help ensure seniors everywhere could protect themselves. Additional coverage appeared on CTV News, CP24, Wealth Professional and others.

Catch the Scam put HomeEquity Bank in a positive light with consumers and reinforced it as an advocate and champion for their customer base. It was part of a multi-faceted year-long marketing effort that saw HomeEquity Bank’s portfolio of reverse mortgages surpass $5bn for the first time. The success was fueled by another record-breaking year in 2020, marking a 39% increase in growth over the past three years.

Creatively, the campaign garnered global attention from the likes of The One Show. And, the Shopper Innovation + Activation Awards called it one of the breakthrough campaigns of the year.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021. Find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.

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