Why read this? : You can practice your advertising evaluation skills by analysing adverts from other categories. We show you how with examples of bank advertising from Bankwest, Commbank and ANZ Bank. Learn from these how to work out what adverts are trying to do. And how to work out if they’re actually doing it. Read this for ideas on how to practice your advertising evaluation skills.
One difficult part of advertising evaluation is you don’t get many chances to practice it. It’s usually only when you create new advertising, right?
Because let’s face it, new advertising happens about as frequently as trips to the dentist. You only tend to do it when you need to, and there’s always a certain amount of pain involved.
So, to keep those advertising evaluation brain cells in shape, it’s worth giving them a work-out on other company’s advertising. And to be honest, it’s always more fun picking apart someone else’s advertising, than trying to fix your own.
Reverse engineer the ad
So, where do you start? Well, first you need to pick an advert. And that’s easy, because good advertising gets noticed and remembered.
So, you start by thinking about adverts you’ve noticed and remembered.
Think about 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 key elements of the brief from what you see.
All areas which good adverts and briefs should cover.
It’s fun, because let’s face it, everyone has an opinion about advertising. And there’s no pressure on you to get it right.
But, it’s also helpful, because there’ll be lessons to learn for your own advertising. 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.
Let’s be clear, we’re talking about a step up from 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” a piece of creative content comes from the excellent The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. Well worth a read)
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
There’s also useful learning when you look at non-competing categories too. Advertising evaluation is a skill. And like any skill, the more you practice it, the better at it you become.
So, that’s what we’re doing 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. That may sound surprising to some. It’s not often you read banking is interesting.
Think back to the 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 broader areas of the marketing mix to stand out.
Banking and brand identity
Which are you more likely to remember? The yellow and black bank versus the blue and black bank? Or the bank that 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 guide to colour in marketing).
And as we’ll see, this brand identity comes to life in their advertising.
Advertising is another marketing tool, bank brands use 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 that 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 is not 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 also shoplifted a cushion off-camera, and stuffed it under his slightly too tight shirt. Or maybe that’s just 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 that pointed out how generic bank advertising tends to be, and made a point of saying “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 that should make sense to customers. And lots of visual brand cues that 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 that don’t quite work.
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 that 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 differently over 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 that 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 in this advert. 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 cute big dog.
No real issue with this.
But he feels like a stereotypical version of “quirky”. Like something an advertising agency would come up with. The target audience isn’t clear, but we’d have to guess it’s younger, inner-city living hipsters. Who buy cushions and cakes.
In fact, it would be no surprise, if the agency creative team who came up with this idea are younger inner-city hipsters too.
But, is that really the target 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 (that 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’re banking some good results from this.
The advertising impact with customers?
As we obviously can’t see the sales and profit impact, our next best option is 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 customers really want from marketing and advertising?
The CommBank Can Lives Here campaign
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 much 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 very strong here. 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 that 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 that 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’s talking about an abstract concept or feeling – the concept of “can”.
There’s no real action or series of events 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 seem to really talk to specific emotions. It feels too arty and too abstract to be something that 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, not clear 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 more.
Put yourself in the shoes of the target audience for this. Why would you care about this advert? Most people only notice advertising that feels like it talks directly to them. If there’s no clear benefit to them, they’ll ignore or forget it.
That’s clearly not what the brand marketing team 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 that defines the way 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 that he’s managed to carve out a career for himself in the media (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 two 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 chose not to (or didn’t even think about) including more subtle colour and logo placements though.
ANZ colours are Blue and Black. We’d have thought it would have been easy enough to ask him to wear a a navy polo shirt for example. But nope, he’s head to toe in black clothing.
And the story?
Well, here’s where the advert starts to go a bit wrong. It’s a hand-over from the main tennis commentators, and the “drama” is that Dylan’s so engrossed in the Financial Service app, he doesn’t hear the questions when he’s live on air. Oh, and for some reason, he’s singing and humming (quite badly) to himself all the way through.
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, that it’ll turn you deaf and oblivious to outside noises? Or, that 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 damn question that plagues the other two examples of bank advertising. 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 have been much 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, really, beyond this, is it really going to have much of an impact?
Conclusion - What did we learn from bank advertising?
So, what do we summarise as our learnings for your advertising evaluation skills?
Well, consistent use of brand colours is a good thing for your brand identity. Thinking your message through from the point of view of your customers 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 that 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 a more stretching challenge to create good advertising. Especially advertising that 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 contact us, if you need specific support. You know you can always bank on us!