30th June 2017

The best Financial Services adverts of all time

Since September 1955, when the benefits of Gibbs SR toothpaste were first beamed into the UK’s living rooms, TV advertising has become a feature of everyday life. More than 60 years on, we’ve seen many different approaches to marketing financial services on the box, whether it’s banking, insurance, credit cards or planning for the future.

Among the tearjerkers, heart-warmers and thought-provokers, we’ve also been exposed to some genuinely funny moments, along with some really annoying earworms. Here we’ll take a look at a selection of the best, or at least, the most memorable.

1. Prudential –Day one campaign – 2011

Starting with the thought-provoking approach, this campaign sought to engage people in the US with planning for retirement. It’s notoriously difficult to get people to project themselves possibly decades into the future, so this advert combines realism about retirement with human-interest stories about how it can be a success. Forbes magazine called it ‘The first campaign to position retirement as a fresh start, rather than a dead end’.

2. Chase Bank – 2016

And now a lighter take on retirement. This piece from the New York based subsidiary of JP Morgan, Chase, puts a different spin on retirement. But again, it’s a positive view of what the future holds. It’s not selling unrealistic expectations, but it’s elevating retirement from something to be feared, or worse, ignored.

3. LBS – Wet Dream – 2014

Set in spectacular slow motion at the most decadent of pool parties. ‘Wet dream’ is a celebration of what can be achieved with just a little imagination. This German bank proves that financial services advertising really doesn’t have to be boring.

4. TVC Thai Life Insurance – 2014

In this three-minute story from Thailand, an unnamed protagonist helps those around him, little and often. He waters a thirsty plant, helps a street vendor and gives money to a child for education. As the narrator points out “He gets nothing. He won’t be richer. Won’t appear on TV. Still anonymous. And not a bit more famous.” However, “He witnesses happiness. Reaches a deeper understanding”. It’s a powerful look at how small changes carried out with good intent can make a big difference.

5. Visa’s running man – 2007

A shift in tone now to an advert that avoids sentiment but still captures how life can literally feel like it’s running away from us – and how financial institutions can be there to help. It’s a great opening and a story that has you wondering who, what and why, right up to the payoff.

6. HSBC ‘OK’ – 2008

Sticking with humour, this from HSBC, is a great take on how those same institutions can apply their knowledge and understanding, in this case for business banking. A great tagline and a funny look at the power of avoiding cultural faux pas. There were other episodes, but this is the most memorable. Nobody wants to be that guy.

7. Barclays ‘Fraud Smart’ – 2016

In this recent campaign, Barclays turned its attention to the threat of financial fraud. By bringing it into our front rooms, accompanied by an authoritative, protective presence just within reach, they got across two very powerful messages. First, everyone needs to be aware of fraud. Two, Barclays has got our backs. It’s like seeing scary animals at the zoo, but holding tight to your parents’ hands all the time.

8. Lloyds 250th anniversary – 2015

Over the years, many big financial institutions have appealed to the emotions, which is true of advertising campaigns around many other products and services. By tugging at the heartstrings, it’s all too easy to overshoot and end up in Spielbergian schmaltz, or to make an advert that’s so saccharin-sweet, people forget who it’s for (because they’ve switched over half-way through). For their bicentennial-and-a-half, Lloyds threw everything at this one, but to fair, they got it just right.

And now some specialist awards…

9. Nordnet Norge – Best meta approach to financial advertising – 2014

Well, it’s a novel and possibly a brave approach. This Nordnet Norge advert pulls no punches in its approach to giving the message that it’s serious about transparency, in absolutely everything. It’s dangerous to be flippant in an industry that’s dealing with people’s money, but on the other hand, since 2008 transparency has been a really big issue. A hands-up approach could be just what’s needed.

10. Access –Best earworm award – 1989

Long gone, but never forgotten. Access, our one-time flexible friend, ran this campaign in 1989. It’s now meaningless to millenials, but this earworm will still strike a chord with – and most likely irritate – anyone who was within earshot during the 80s.

11.   First Barclaycard advert – Lifetime achievement award – 1966

And finally, to take us back to where we started, a little over a decade after TV advertising first arrived, Barclays launched Barclaycard, the UK’s first credit card. Here’s how in 1966, they sold us the concept for the very first time.

That’s a selection of the many, many financial adverts that are worthy of note. While you may agree or disagree with the choices above, they all have something in common – they elicit a reaction, whether it’s thinking about the future, thinking about your loved ones or just noticing a new product or service that’s been cleverly put on your radar.

Sometimes financial advertising is about making us ask the big questions, but sometimes it’s about giving us some much-needed comic relief too.