So long, farewell… The most pointless ad campaign in history?

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This week has been one big, fat customer relations fail in the life of Creativepool’s grumpiest blogger. That’s me, by the way, and it’s a title I’m rather proud of. Oh, and before you go all grammar guru on me, and tell me that, as a copywriter, I should know better than to end a sentence with a preposition, “it’s a title of which I am proud” sounds about as poncy as the comments by the food critics on MasterChef. You might as well say you should never start a sentence with “and”.

And if you tell me that, we’re going to come to blows; I’m grumpy enough already without you pedantically teaching me to suck eggs.

So yeah, customers. Of which I am one. Bad deal, bad service. Me no happy.

OK, I did that one on purpose.

Three times this week I’ve experienced poor customer service from companies that really should know better. I’m not going to name and shame two of them because they tried to amends, but I really need to mention the third – if nothing else because they haven’t tried to make amends, and that alone baffles me. But it’s also massively ironic because they’re currently running an ad campaign, which is all about how much they value their customers.

The NatWest “Goodbye, Hello” campaign is excellent on many levels. It’s really well constructed and written, for one thing, as you might expect from M&C Saatchi. Set to the soundtrack of “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music, it’s a light-hearted ad where people say their fond farewells to people whom they’re actually very glad to see the back of: undesirable boyfriends, noisy rock bands and even the wet British weather. By contrast, people are very glad to say hello to NatWest: 

“Goodbye unfair banking. Hello NatWest.”

Like I say, it’s very well executed; I have no argument with that. And if I hadn’t been a customer of theirs already for 30+ years, I might well consider giving them a look at the very least.

But here’s where it all went pear-shaped. The fact is, I HAVE been with NatWest for 30+ years. I’ve had many different accounts with them – from current accounts to savings accounts, from Advantage Gold cards to First Reserves, from home insurance to a string of credit cards. I’ve demonstrated my loyalty year after year after year.

Now, however, the deals I can get elsewhere on the high street are simply too good to ignore, so I’ve had to start looking around. Granted, the amount of interest I can get elsewhere isn’t colossal, but it’s still more than a piffling 0.75% or whatever it is I’m getting there. But it’s the cashback on bills that’s grabbing my attention, alongside the interest rate which is a whopping four times higher than NatWest’s.

So when I went into my local NatWest branch and said, “Look, here’s what Santander are offering me; what can you do for me?” what I certainly didn’t expect them to say was, “Nothing. We can’t compete – I understand if you want to move to Santander.”

Seriously. They told me to go to their competitor. They did not say ONE thing to try to get me to stay.

Three things are seriously wrong here:

In a competitive marketplace, no bank can afford to rest on its laurels and rely on either apathy or loyalty (even 30-year-long loyalty) to keep them in business.

The ad campaign, however happy-clappy it’s meant to appear, is apparently an utter waste of time. “Goodbye, Hello”? It might as well be called “Sod off and don’t come back” (and then in the small print, “we’ve got enough in the coffers without your poxy £1,000 a month.”)

Finally, and most worryingly, if the company’s very own staff can’t even think of a reason to encourage customers to stay and – staggeringly – they’re telling those demonstrating 30 years of loyalty to go elsewhere, then they’re really going to get themselves into trouble.

In this day and age, particularly when there’s a universal seven-day switching service in place so that punters don’t have to do all the tedious transfer work themselves, banks really need to up their game to keep and win customers. I suspect that NatWest will, in time, find out the hard way that they’re getting it wrong.

Because for now, it really is “so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night”.


by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger


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