Why read this? : We show how you can practice your advertising evaluation skills by analysing adverts from other categories. Learn how with our examples of bank advertising from Bankwest, Commbank and ANZ Bank. We try to work out what each advert’s trying to do, and how well it’s doing it. Read this for ideas on advertising evaluation skills you can bank on.
One hard part of advertising evaluation is you don’t get much chance to practice it. It’s usually only when you do new advertising, right? And new advertising’s a bit like going to the dentist. You only do it when you have to. And there’s always a certain amount of pain involved.
So, to keep those advertising evaluation brain cells in shape, give them a work-out on other company’s advertising. And let’s be honest, it’s always fun picking apart someone else’s work to see what you’d have done differently.
Reverse engineer the ad
You start by picking an advert to evaluate. And that’s easy, because good advertising gets noticed. And it gets remembered.
So, think about a recent advert and why you noticed and remembered it.
Then think about what the brand was trying to do which led to that advert being made. See if you can reverse-engineer the brief from what you see.
Who’s the target audience? What’s the key insight? How do they show the brand identity? And, what’s the benefit and point of difference?
This is fun as, let’s face it, everyone has an opinion on advertising. And you’re under no pressure to get it right. It’s a learning exercise.
Which makes it helpful. There’ll be lessons to learn for your own advertising. You can learn what works, and what doesn’t by reviewing what others do. It can give you ideas to try out, or things to watch out for. It’s a great way to build your creative evaluation skills.
This is more than taking the mickey out of an advert with your mates at the pub. We’re talking about a more thoughtful unpicking of a piece of creative work. Like taking an X-Ray of the advert, to work out what’s going on behind what you can see.
(By the way, the concept of “X-raying” content comes from the excellent The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. Well worth a read)
Of course, if you regularly review competitors, you probably already look at their advertising. Competitor advertising reviews are often a key secondary research part of your marketing plan.
Competitor advertising gives you clues about their target audience and positioning. You should be able to work out their underlying insight. Their benefit and point of difference should be clear. You’ll see signs of their brand identity. All useful knowledge to shape your own advertising plans.
Non-competitor advertising helps you learn too
It’s also useful to learn from non-competing categories too. Advertising evaluation is a skill. And the more you practice it, the better you get at it.
So, that’s what we’re up to this week. And the lucky category we’ve chosen is banking and specifically, bank advertising.
Yep, show us the money.
It’s a category we obviously use as customers. But, not one, we’ve worked on from a marketing or advertising point of view.
This means we can analyse this bank advertising with an open mind and few preconceptions or biases. (we’ve not reviewed the advertising from our own bank, for example).
Banking is interesting from a marketing point of view. For example, look at banking’s 4Ps marketing mix. The “product” you buy from a bank is access to their services. Bank accounts, loans, managing savings, transactions and so on. These are intangible and to the ordinary customer, quite generic.
Banking experts will tell you service levels differ. But from the outside, they’re hard to tell apart. So, banking brands have to look at other areas of the marketing mix to stand out.
Banking and brand identity
This is why branding elements like logos, typography and colour schemes matter a lot in banking. These visually highlight differences between banking brands. They’re tangible signals which make it easier for customers to recognise and remember brands.
Which are you more likely to remember? The yellow and black bank versus the blue and black bank? Or the bank which offers a 0.1% better savings rate, or 3 month deferment on payment schedules?
Clearly, banks need to build a strong brand identity to stand out.
(See bottom of the page for the answers to this bank branding colour quiz by the way, taken from our colour in marketing guide).
And as we’ll see, this brand identity comes to life in their advertising campaigns.
Bank brands use their advertising to distinguish themselves from their competitors. And TV advertising is the most high profile of the media channels they use, so let’s focus there.
The Bankwest Bryce campaign
So, our first bank advertising example comes from Bankwest.
Except right from the start, it points out it’s not bank advertising. It’s customer advertising.
So, we follow our ginger-headed and bearded hero customer Bryce, as he fourth wall breaks the opening scene by saying this isn’t a bank advert.
We follow him as he goes off to buy cakes and cushions, and walks back to his big Inner City house.
(probably a bit mean, but we did also wonder if he’d shoplifted a cushion off-camera, and stuffed it under his slightly too tight shirt. Or maybe just ate too many cakes?).
The idea to make a customer-led advert, logically makes sense.
Customers are more interested in themselves, after all. Do they really care what banks have to say? The core message, that “it’s the customer that matters most” feels like a good marketing-led thought.
Plus, the advert ticks the consistency and differentiation boxes. It’s a follow-on from their previous campaign which pointed out how generic bank advertising is, and then said “hey, we’re different”.
They’ve also got strong brand identity visual cues. His ginger hair – similar to the bank’s orange brand colour. Spot the bank staff member in the start frame, so you know it’s Bankwest. That’s good. Also, the cushion he picks up – orange.
So, clear central idea. Key message which should make sense to customers. And lots of visual brand cues which reinforce the brand.
That’s a good list of things to get right.
But, here’s where it doesn’t work so well
And yet, if you poke around under the surface, there’s areas which don’t quite work.
First, the idea of making the customer the “hero”, we get it. It comes from the basic principles of storytelling, and it’s a good principle. But, does this advert really do that?
Because, it actually makes one customer the hero. And we do question if the target audience will see themselves in the story of Bryce. Because, that’s what customers care about. Themselves. They don’t care about Bryce, because they don’t know who he is.
There’s a hint of an insight there, when he says he just wants to live his life (with his cake and his cushions) and “not let all that bank stuff get in the way”. You can almost hear that being said in a focus group, can’t you? Customers don’t like complicated jargon. They just want to manage their money the way they like.
What’s the benefit and point of difference?
But nothing in this advert shows how Bankwest deliver this benefit. Without doing any further research, we have no idea from this advert why we’d pick Bankwest over any other bank.
What is it about Bankwest’s offer which means you can “live your life the way you want to”? What’s the benefit? And what’s the point of difference? What can Bankwest do better or different versus competitors?
We can only really see “we don’t make banking adverts” as the “benefit” in this advert. But that doesn’t seem much of a benefit for customers. That seems more of a claim by the brand team and marketing agency.
Watch it again.
The advert makes no claims and states no benefits about what Bankwest can do for you. The only take-out is they won’t confuse you with jargon in their advertising. Do bank customers really care about that?
Is the hero character too quirky and niche?
We find the hero character, Bryce, a bit perplexing. Casting is really hard in advertising, we get that. It often comes down to personal taste. But something here feels off. And, it’s not down to the skills of the actor, it’s the material he’s been given to work with.
They’ve clearly avoided the temptation to use typical fresh-faced, catwalk type models here. The hero character is quirky. But, not too quirky. Because too quirky, is too close to weird.
Hey, Bryce is ginger. He’s got a beard and glasses. Look at his loud shirts, his tattoo and his lack of socks. Look at his big cute dog.
No real issue with this.
But he feels like a stereotype version of “quirky”. Like something an agency would come up with. The target audience isn’t clear, but we’d guess it’s younger, inner-city living hipsters. Who buy cushions and cakes.
In fact, it’d be no surprise, if the creative team behind this are younger inner-city hipsters too.
But, is that really the audience they’re going for? If it is, fair play, but that feels very niche to us. We don’t think wider audiences will really “get” him. And if wider audiences don’t get him, then this advert probably isn’t going to have the impact Bankwest wants.
What’s the actual story?
And really, what’s the story here? It’s hard to connect to this guy’s life. As we said, the idea makes logical sense. But there’s no real emotional connection here.
He buys cake. He buys cushions. And then he goes home to his big house (which most of the target audience could never afford to buy). With his great big dog.
So, what? Why, as a potential customer would we care?
This advert doesn’t make you interested in Bankwest services. It talks about customers, but customers that are someone else. Not you.
So, if customers can’t see themselves in the advertising, they won’t be interested. And no interest, means no sales. As famous advertising guru, David Ogilvy says in his book, “if it’s not driving sales, it’s not advertising”.
Yes, that book is now almost 40 years old. But, advertising costs money. Even in today’s digital-led economy, that hasn’t changed. When you spend on advertising, you expect to see a sales impact.
Obviously, the bank’s marketing team, and the agency will have the best view on this advert’s performance. Despite its flaws, it does a lot of things right. We hope they bank some good results from this.
The advertising impact with customers?
As we can’t see the sales and profit impact, our next best option to check the impact is to look at search results on “Bankwest Bryce”. The top 4 links were all to marketing magazines talking about the campaign. We couldn’t see any customer-led responses.
So, we hopped over to their Facebook page. Good start, lots of consistent brand identity visual assets. The animated version of Bryce and dog is all over their posts.
But read the comments from actual customers. What do you get?
I want a better interest rate on my savings.
I’d like to be served quicker.
Can you get my loan approved quicker?
If the bank really wanted to live up to their “customer focus”, then maybe fixing their service and advertising to focus more on these issues would be a better bet? It wouldn’t feel as clever. But, it would have much more tangible and concrete benefits for customers.
And isn’t that what customers really want from marketing?
The CommBank Can Lives Here campaign
(Editors note – Unfortunately, this advert has been pulled from YouTube since we wrote this article. However, as it describes what happens in the advert, you can still get the key learnings from what we wrote at the time).
So, let’s see if Bankwest’s owner, CommBank can do any better with their bank advertising.
This certainly looks and feels quite different to the Bankwest advert.
It’s a more traditional slice of life type advert, with lots of short sharp cuts.
We see a variety of customer heroes in this advert. People from all walks of Australian life, with a rousing soundtrack and voiceover.
Fishermen, restaurant workers, nurses. These feel much more like real people than Bryce did. We won’t remember any of them. But they’re at least more relatable.
And, there’s plenty of diversity in terms of ages, races and genders going on here. A girl’s cricket team. Spot on for inclusivity. Brilliant.
That’s all good.
Again, brand identity is strong. Check out the yellow you see repeatedly though the advert.
The girl’s swimsuit on the diving board. One of the cricket hats. The house builder’s T-shirt. Clear brand colours on the bank building and the website.
Lots of colour signals to remind you of the brand.
There’s also strong production values running through this advert. High quality film footage, the film crew were clearly were good.
That all sounds good.
So, does that mean this one’s good bank advertising then?
Again, where’s the benefit and point of difference?
Well, despite all those positives, there’s still issues with this. Like the Bankwest advert, it’s unclear what’s in it for the customer.
We get CommBank has tried to position itself longer-term around this more “can-do”, enabling position. And we get this is close to the hearts of Australians – give it a fair go.
And, we also get you need to do longer-term brand-building adverts as well as more short-term sales-focussed advertising (that message from Binet and Field’s The Long and Short of It is well-known).
But, do customers really think of their bank this way? Have you ever talked about your bank this way?
It seems wishful and aspirational thinking from the brand team and agency to associate their brand with this attitude. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing. It’s good to have lofty goals, after all. But, we don’t see how this abstract concept connects the bank to its customers in this advert.
There’s nothing really concrete and tangible here. Maybe the fisherman, the restaurant owner, the farmer benefitted from loans to grow their businesses? That would seem like a more relevant, though mundane story to tell.
But here, we get people diving into pools and playing cricket (OK, we get the cricket sponsorship link). What’s that got to do with banking?
Stories work better on concrete actions not abstract concepts
The “story” such as there is doesn’t really have a hero. It talks about an abstract concept or feeling – the concept of “can”.
There’s no real action to hold your interest. A bunch of bland, generic jump cuts. Which, if you took out the yellow brand cues, feel like they could be used in any other bank advertising.
And while it’s good to connect on emotion, this one doesn’t really talk to specific emotions. It feels too arty and too abstract to be something real customers would identity with.
CommBank’s point of difference is …?
And again, if ultimately, the aim of advertising is to grow sales, other than reminding people that CommBank exists, it’s not clear how this bank advertising does that. What’s the point of difference between CommBank and other banks, for example?
Totally unclear from this advert.
CommBank’s advertising is at least consistent. This one likely won’t do the brand any harm.
And to be honest, they should see some impact on sales, just based on how much media spend they put behind it. But, for us, it’ll do this by keeping the brand top of mind. But, that’s about it. It doesn’t really move the brand forward or make it stand out.
Put yourself in the shoes of the target audience for this. Why would you care about this advert? Most people only notice advertising which feels like it talks directly to them. If there’s no clear benefit to you, you ignore and / or forget it.
That’s clearly not what CommBank want. But, it’s likely what they’ll end up with.
Incidentally, a quick check on CommBank’s social media feeds and it’s a similar story to Bankwest. No real mentions of the advertising. It’s all corporate activity and sponsorships mixed in with service outages. And from customers? Well, it’s customers complaining about service levels, especially waiting times.
For us, this is bank advertising that’s inoffensive, but forgettable. And being forgettable is something you really DON’T want.
ANZ Bank Financial Well-being campaign
And so, we come to the last of this week’s quick bank advertising reviews.
It features wheelchair basketball and tennis star, Dylan Alcott spruiking ANZ Bank’s Financial Well-being services.
We first came across him a few years back, when he was a guest speaker at an event. He’s a very inspiring and down to earth guy, with a great sense of humour.
He came across as someone who takes the positive out of life, and who doesn’t let his wheelchair become the thing which defines how he lives his life.
Like we say, inspiring.
We remember he told a story of when he was younger. And there was something he wanted, that his older brother also wanted. So, his brother put it up high on a shelf, so he couldn’t reach it from his wheelchair.
And even though that pissed him off, he also loved it. Because it felt he was being treated like any “younger brother” would, and not the “kid in the wheelchair”. He wanted to be treated as an individual, and not by his disability.
It’s a great example of how you can use a simple story to explain a much more complex subject. Everyone got it when he said it.
Coming back to this advert though
It’s great for him he’s managed to carve out a media career (though perhaps we didn’t need to see so many details about what he and his girlfriend get up to on some of the trashier news sites). Fair play to the guy, he comes across well on screen.
Here, he’s a celebrity endorser of the ANZ bank financial well-being service. Though weirdly, notice how he doesn’t really talk in this advert. Or even look at the camera.
We say, weirdly, because as we said, he’s a very articulate and clear speaker.
So, what’s good about this particular bank advertising?
Well, for one, it’s much more specific than the previous examples of bank advertising.
It’s not advertising the bank at a macro level, but a specific tangible service they offer.
This makes it much simpler to understand. You know what they want you to do after you see this advert.
There’s plenty of ANZ branding on show in the banners behind him and when he looks at the app. Though, again weirdly, you also get branding for the Australian Open and Kia in this advert. That’s unusual. Brands usually want only their own brand on screen.
And unlike the Bankwest and Commbank ads, they didn’t include subtle colour and logo placements.
ANZ colours are Blue and Black. We’d have thought it’d have been easy enough to ask him to wear a blue polo shirt, for example. But nope, he’s head to toe in black.
And the story?
Well, here’s where the advert goes a bit wrong. It’s a hand-over from the main tennis commentators, and the “drama” is Dylan’s so engrossed in the Financial Service app, he doesn’t hear them when he’s live on air. Oh, and for some reason, the app makes him sing and hum (quite badly) to himself.
Just think about that for a moment. What are you, the potential customer, supposed to make of this?
That somehow this financial health app will be so engrossing, you’ll screw up your job? Or, it’ll turn you deaf and oblivious to outside noises? Or, it’ll make you sing and hum badly?
None of those seems like benefits you’d want to convey in bank advertising.
What’s the benefit and point of difference?
So, we go back to the same core question as the other bank advertising examples. What’s the benefit and point of difference?
Here, at least it’s a bit clearer. The voiceover clearly states the app “breaks your finances down into weekly steps, so you can get on top of your money”.
Brilliant. Get that.
But, is that what the action brings to life? Is what he’s doing on screen a match for “breaking down your finances”, or “getting on top of your money”?
That, we don’t get. In fact, it feels like there’s a mismatch between the voiceover and the action. Not terrible by any means. And maybe something only marketing and advertising nerds would notice.
But it’s there.
And as a potential customer, even though you’ve stated the benefit, the advert doesn’t really show the benefit brought to life. All we see is him using the app, not the benefit of his finances broken down and being on top of his money.
If they’d shown us that, it would’ve been more persuasive. We might notice the ad, because, hey, how many people in wheelchairs do you see in adverts? And oh, it’s Dylan Alcott, heard of him.
But, beyond this, is it really going to have much of an impact?
Conclusion - What did we learn from bank advertising?
So, what are the advertising evaluation learnings here?
Well, consistent use of brand colours is a good thing for your brand identity. Thinking your message through from the customer point of view is a good thing. And having an actual concrete tangible benefit is a much easier message to land.
But, on the flip side, it’s easy to get distracted by what might appeal to the advertising agency, and not the customer. It’s easy to have a safe aspirational message, but you have to question how many customers it connects with. And lastly, if you secure good talent for your advert, make sure you use them in a way which uses those talents.
Bank advertising is an interesting category to analyse. It’s harder to advertise intangible services generally. You can’t really point at the product. But, that just makes it more of a challenge to create good advertising. Especially advertising which lands a clear benefit, and point of difference. Which is probably the biggest area where these adverts miss the mark.
Check out our guides to advertising evaluation and storytelling for more lessons you can use to improve your advertising skills. Or email us, if you need specific advice. You know you can always bank on us!
Using an ATM : Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash
Colour bank brand answers
A – Comm Bank
B – ANZ Bank
C – NAB Bank