How should banks advertise in a recession?

“Let us help you save money,” coos NatWest in its latest ad. “Is this the most insincere bank ad ever?” reply bloggers
With bankers high up on most people’s hit lists, and banks facing a barrage of negative publicity, how do advertising agencies tackle the tricky task of promoting them?


“Let us help you save money,” coos NatWest in its latest ad. “Is this the most insincere bank ad ever?” reply bloggers

With bankers high up on most people’s hit lists, and banks facing a barrage of negative publicity, how do advertising agencies tackle the tricky task of promoting them?

The first banking ads since the start of the recession are beginning to be released and the approach seems to be one of directness – reassuring voices telling customers that despite everything they’re reading in the media, they are the bank that can be trusted. This is evident in Nationwide’s recent print and poster campaign, which simply announces that they are ‘Solid. Stable. Dependable. Exciting aren’t we?’


Nationwide’s new slogan

Others are taking a similar route, with an added emphasis on making banks appear more human and friendly. NatWest’s latest series of ads (one shown top) emphasises its Money Sense advisors, who are on hand in branches across the country. The ads show a series of smiling customers exchanging banter with engaged and interested bank staff. This is perhaps not an experience that most of us are familiar with, and as a consequence the campaign has already engendered some backlash online.


Halifax stresses its human touch in its new ad campaign

Halifax’s new spot feels similarly patronising, if a little more imaginatively performed. This one shows groups of bank employees forming human ladders and pyramids to present individuals with a five pound note, representing the money that is given each month by the bank to reward current account holders, “as a way of saying thank you”. It isn’t until the small print at the end that it is revealed that you only receive the money if you deposit £1000 a month.


HSBC Lumberjack ad – is this type of campaign still relevant for banks today?

Is this really the right tack? Certainly bank advertising of the HSBC ilk, whose ”world’s local bank” campaign was becoming increasingly obscure of late (see Lumberjack spot above), feels inappropriate in the current financial climate. But short of releasing a film of bank CEOs pleading for forgiveness while being whipped by disgruntled customers, how can banks use advertising to win back consumers’ confidence?

The “we’re really trustworthy, honest” approach may seem the only available avenue at the moment, but are any of us really likely to believe it? How would you like your bank to talk to you?

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