VMLY&R’s Paul Nagy on why consumers don’t care about emotional banking ads

Banks spend too much time trying to play on consumers’ emotions and pretending to be part of the family, instead of marketing to them about what they actually care about.

This is the perspective of VMLY&R’s chief creative officer Paul Nagy, who said banks are a necessary evil whose ad campaigns are often insincere and eye-roll inducing.

“You hate us, and yet we act like you are part of your family,” Nagy said on stage at Mumbrella’s Finance Marketing Summit.

“It’s all about ‘We’re saving you with helicopters, we care about your kids going through university, we’re a part of the family’…. Not only is that fundamentally not true, but if you said that to most Australians their eyes would roll back into their heads so far they would see their own spinal column, they just don’t believe it.”

Nagy speaking about Bankwest’s Bank Less campaign 

Nagy, who works with client Bankwest, said the brand’s Bank Less platform was born from this idea, and the truth that Australians want to be less involved – not more involved – with their finance institutions. Subsequently, Bankwest and VLMY&R’s challenge was launching the platform in a genuine way in light of the Royal Commission.

“Banks are constantly overstating their role in people’s lives,” Nagy said. “What if we became the only bank that gives them what they really want? And we defined that as getting out of their way.

“People want to live, they don’t want to think about their bank. We’re a necessary evil.

“We want to play a better role in people’s lives by playing a smaller one,” Nagy explained.

Bankwest chief marketing officer Haylee Felton explained the first step was bringing every employee of Bankwest on board with the new mentality of Bank Less.

“It was really important that the brand had as much power internally as a rallying cry for employees, as it did as an articulation of what we were trying to achieve to our customers and our marketplace,” Felton said.

Felton also said the Royal Commission was a blessing in disguise for getting the company on board and pulling the campaign off.

“That was a blessing in disguise because we had the time and space to do that properly, so that by the time we did go to market with a bit more of a bang we not only had more support and comfort from our senior execs and leadership group, we had a frontline colleague team that were confident in explaining the platform and articulating what it meant to customers.”

Following the launch of the ‘Sea of Sameness’ campaign film, which was satirical take on the traditional banking ads, Nagy explained that every product or aspect of Bankwest’s business needed to fall under the Bank Less philosophy. The company even introduced a ‘jargon jar’ in its branches which helps its staff identify ways how they can communicate to customers in a clearer way, reducing the ‘Bank Stuff’ in the business.

For Nagy, the launch of the Halo Ring – a piece of wearable technology that allows customers to make transactions without the use of their card – in the early stages of the Bank Less campaign typifies Bankwest’s ambition to remove itself from its customers minds, and play a smaller role in their lives.

Felton and Nagy on stage at Mumbrella’s Finance Marketing Summit

“When we say we are just trying to get out of the road for our consumer, our consumer now can go for a run, they don’t have to have a little card with our logo on it, they can go for a run and buy a coffee and never ever think about Bankwest at all,” Nagy said.

“As much as possible we are trying not to be a marketing department, we are trying to make the heroes of Bankwest be either our frontline staff or our customers.”


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