Opinion

Honesty is the best (financial advertising) policy

For too long, financial advertising has been filled with cliches that don’t ring true to your average customer. But if financial advertisers stopped the hyperbole and started broadcasting messages that customers actually believe, they'd have a much better chance of succeeding, writes Savvy’s Satwik Chavda.

How many times have you sat down in front of the television, only to be greeted with the sickly sweet tones of a lulling piano melody, coupled with an earnest voiceover of a woman reading some poetry about how homes, family, and [insert random emotional drawcard here] are everything to her?

You sit there, wondering what on earth this is an ad for, when, in the final few seconds, you realise it’s a… finance ad. Unsurprisingly, you’re probably not filled with love for the brand. Perhaps you’re instead filled with irritation and a vague sense of confusion. Or, even worse, you simply dismiss the ad and forget about it.

Marketers aren’t making their ads to be dismissed or ignored. And I get it: marketing financial services is tricky. It’s definitely not the sexiest category in the world, and advertising often needs to get across complex, boring ideas in the simplest and most engaging way possible. It’s no small feat.

However, if financial advertising fails to give any sense of what it might be like to actually use the product or service, or outline the real reasons a customer might have for choosing it, it’s failed. In the wake of the Royal Commission, any financial services brand that isn’t being completely honest in its marketing efforts will be shunned by customers.

Marketing that hits a universal truth will always succeed, but soppy ‘I love my family’ ads simply aren’t going to cut it anymore.

But it’s not all hopeless: there are some brands out there that understand the need for (sometimes brutal) honesty. Take the recent outdoor ads from ME Bank, which get up close and personal with customers’ sense of unease around financial services. They’ve even gone so far as to produce a 15-minute guided meditation video to go along with the outdoor ads.

Or this UK campaign from Barclays in 2016, which tapped into customers’ fear about bank fraud, and the millions lost each year to imposters. Instead of pretending that fraud doesn’t happen, Barclays was brave enough to admit that accounts can get hacked, and offered solutions.

It’s worth remembering that honesty doesn’t have to be scary.

Take this ad from Chase in the US, for example, which took the typical retirement ad and turned it on its head. The creative taps into our very real fears that retirement will be dull and boring, and subverts our expectations with a fun and quirky ad. A quick glance at the comments section will tell you everything you need to know.

The top comment? “The only commercial I will tolerate.”

There are clearly some great examples of brands that are bucking the trend and creating great work, but many financial advertising campaigns still have a long way to go.

In order to truly shake off the effects of the Royal Commission here in Australia, marketers need to get brave, learn to think and talk like a human, and stop defaulting to cliches and platitudes.

Satwik Chavda is head of digital marketing at Savvy, a financial loan provider

The Mumbrella Finance Marketing Summit will take place in Sydney on 25 July. Tickets are available here

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