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Shouldn't banks just stop advertising?


When you're as reviled as the Black Death, figuring out a productive advertising strategy is quite a challenge. Indeed, some might suggest shutting your fat gob and staying well off the radar might be a good call. But when you're a megalomaniacal egotist spending other people's money, that's not really on the agenda  and so advertising campaigns for banks continue apace.

As the banks took civilisation to the brink of termination, even the worst of these mercenary monsters understood the need for a touch of contrition. An obvious and immediate scapegoat was the ludicrous Halifax Howard and his big old geese. (Note, whatever Halifax's giant poultry were dropping from their posteriors as they cruised the country, it wasn't golden eggs). After years of teeth grinding, myopic joviality, Howard was unceremoniously replaced by some sort of human pyramid. This was intended to demonstrate that the folk who lost your pension were now so ashamed, they were willing to let you climb all over them to get to a fiver. Acrobatic apologies delivered, this work was in turn usurped by the current and utterly bemusing Halifax radio station, crewed by people who really ought to be serving customers and refraining from doing terrifying mimes to Vanilla Ice records.

I literally have no idea what this is about.

And what of Nat West? Well, they've now abandoned their programme of closing trendy wine bars to open new branches (or whatever it was they were doing) in favour of a campaign so astonishingly patronising, their customers' eyes start to bleed. 

Ahh, has madam had an ickle baby? Lovely ickle baby. Is ickle baby interested in pensions? No? Shame. Is madam? Oh, good girl.

Ooohhh, does sir have a pretty girlfriend? Like the big boys have? Oh, that's so sweet. Why doesn't sir try for a lovely big boy mortgage too?

Aw, your funny, tiny town doesn't have a super Nat West, does it? Poor, poor you. Never mind. We're sending two frustrated gay women in a blue van up to see you. They'll help you pretend you have. Then they'll have lunch on your quaint beach. That'll be nice won't it?

And on it goes. Apparently, this proves Nat West are the country's most helpful bank, rather than say, the country's most punched in the nose bank. Which surprises me.

HSBC, on the other hand, have something much grander to announce. They are the self-appointed 'world's local bank'. Actually, if you happen to be in Scandinavia, they're anything but, as your nearest branch is probably in Berlin (but why let the facts get in the way of a strapline?).

In case you're wondering why the world needs a local bank, it's so a bloke in Mumbai who makes lassi in old washing machines can beg post-colonial nerds for an investment he is highly unlikely to receive, what with there being no oil, arms, bonuses or tax avoidance involved.

New boys Santander seem to be content with buying all our second tier banks and selling us Lego, so perhaps we should just let them get on with it.

Which leaves us with Lloyds TSB.  Rather imaginatively, they have concluded the average Joe Doofus couldn't possibly understand the fabulous complexities of something as overwhelmingly clever as a bank. So, what with customers being so stupid and all, instead of explaining the finer details of increased bank charges (yawn) or the plummeting value of your meagre savings (snooze), they're going to show you funny, wee animated men and ladies with extended foreheads (like Ant McPartlin after a steamroller problem) who all live on a dinky, jolly railway.

Actually, they don't really live on a railway at all, they live on a metaphor. The small, engorged forehead people represent us and the railway line is in fact, wait for it - life!

Do you see? DO YOU? DO YOU SEE?

Just in case you don't, this is all neatly summarised in the closing moto: 'For the journey'. The journey, in all likelihood, being a trip to file for bankruptcy as your lender merrily repossesses your overvalued, over leveraged bungalow because they've run out of quail's eggs.

Still, nice bibbity boobbity tune and primary colours, so everything's alright.

Banks are notoriously rubbish at listening (except 'the listening bank' which doesn't exist anymore), so I'm not sure why I'm bothering. But for what it's worth, here's a terrific way these fiendish financiers could save a fortune. Stop advertising.

Really, stop right now. No-one likes you or believes a word you're saying anyway. So why bother? You don't really need lots of new customers as no-one has any money any more and you don't want to lend them any. It also seems you have a ton of tax payers' money to lavish on each other. So just get on with it and hang on to those exorbitant marketing fees.

Maybe you could buy a small, developing country and use it as a polo pitch. Or wallpaper a football stadium with £50 notes. Or even give some cash back to the people who saved your sorry behinds and own you.

(In case you were wondering, that'll be us).

Magnus Shaw - copywriter and blogger


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