…from HSBC in Australia?
Financial copywriting and advertising is a specialised niche.
The fundamental principles apply, of course…
…but the context means that there are nuances that need to be considered and taken into account.
Many years ago, Ogilvy and Mather ran a classic series of ads for their own services.
One of them was titled…
“How to create financial advertising that sell”
…and it listed 12 of the things the company had learned about successful financial advertising.
Here are the first 3…
1. The most important decision. How should you position your financial product or service?
2. Build a bond of trust
3. Offer a unique benefit – and advertise it.
I draw your attention to the first point once again. What O&M were essentially saying is that the effectiveness of any advertising is highly dependent on the strategic choice made about positioning.
Few financial service companies have any clear positioning statement…
…so the effectiveness of any ad is going to be constrained from the start.
Let’s now take an alternate look at what goes into a successful ad for financial services.
This is from the great Drayton Bird…
…who of course, for many years enjoyed a close working association with David Ogilvy.
Drayton wrote a white paper titled…
“Selling Money. What we’ve learnt about direct mail for financial services”.
If you head over to www.DraytonBird.com you’ll find it in the “Case Studies, Reports And Articles” section.
It details 10 major points, the first 3 of which are…
1. Be serious – not funny. Money is a serious busines.
2. Be honest
3. Don’t talk down to current or potential customers.
It strikes me that Drayton’s point #1 is the single most important insight to keep in mind for financial copywriting.
It goes back to that fundamental principle from Robert Collier…
“Enter the conversation that is already going on in the mind of the prospect.”
Money is a highly emotional subject. It is serious stuff. As Drayton comments…
“People’s livelihoods and futures depend on it.”
Following on from this, I think you can see why trust is so important…
…and also positioning.
Positioning is largely about spelling out why people should do business with you…
…and often implies why you can trust them.
Now with this framework in place, let’s take a look at an ad from HSBC Australia aimed at attracting more individual clients for the bank.
Let me say that I have a reasonable regard for HSBC. They are one of the most profitable banks in the world and make pots of money In Hong Kong and Asia.
They’ve generally avoided the blunders made by other big banks (with the exception of a disastrous foray into down-market consumer finance in the USA).
Here’s the basics of the ad…
Get Financially Fit With HSBC
Variation1: Trim Your Home Loan
Variation 2: Bulk Up Your Bank Account
Variation 3: Slim Your Credit Card Waistline
Call To Action…
Invitation to find out more about some “Great Deals” that are on offer.
I’ve so far seen this basic lead generation ad used in online banner ads and also in outdoor display ads.
So, how does this measure up to the 6 points from Ogilvy and Bird that are set out above?
1. Positioning. No mention at all. HSBC have in other campaigns worked with the idea of “The world’s local bank” but nothing at all here.
2. Trust. No reason presented here as to why you should trust HSBC above other banks.
3. Unique benefit. There’s an implied benefit and that’s a plus. But nothing unique.
4. Be serious. Major fail. The whole slant of this ad is an attempt to be “clever” and humourous.
5. Be honest. No problem here.
6. Don’t talk down to prospects. There’s a potential problem here. In attempting to be funny, there’s a risk that prospects perceive the bank isn’t treating them like adults. Going back to Drayton’s key point, adults take the subject of money seriously.
The big problem here is the ad agency attempting to be “clever” and “creative” in coming up with a way to stand out from the crowd and get attention.
What is “bankercise” meant to mean, for goodness sake! The headline might well attract some initial attention. I certainly took a look at it, but then again as a copywriter I’m probably a little different from the norm as I actively study ads.
However, once people have figured out what it’s about, I’d suggest they are unlikely to go further…
…because clearly it’s not a serious ad.
A potentially even bigger problem is the lack of clear positioning…
…and I’d guess that issue was probably never addressed by the client or the agency responsible.
We’ll see how the ad performs…
…but I think it’s fair to say that neither Ogilvy & Mather in their heyday nor the great Drayton Bird would have written this particular financial ad.