The Financial Brand looked at hundreds of bank and credit union videos produced in 2011. If there were Academy Awards in the banking industry, here would be 15 of this year’s nominees. (Please note: This article embeds YouTube videos.)
Best Use of a Celebrity Spokesperson
Financial Institution: DnB, Norway
Title: Good Morning Mrs. Clooney
This spot is like a 30-second version of “The Hangover” for women. You wake up in a hotel room. You’ve obviously had a rough night. You look down at this ginormous rock on your ring finger. You’re married? You weren’t yesterday. You pick a wedding dress off the floor. Before you can think “What have I done???” none other than George Clooney steps out of the bathroom — for real, in the flesh. “I like your dress,” says the handsome Hollywood star. “Looks better off than on.” O.M.G. This commercial from DnB, a Norwegian bank, is hilarious. It’s a bit indirect with the link back to financial services: “Some people are lucky in life. For the rest of us, saving up can be smart.” But who cares? It’s super funny. The one-minute spot has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube.
Most Freaky Guerilla Stunt
Financial Institution: NAB, Australia
Title: Guerilla Traps
NAB went fully guerilla with this pair of clever stunts. The Aussie banking giant produced two fascinating spycam videos capturing how people react when forcibly trapped. In one video, job applicants are held captive in an interview by a creepy manager who bolts and bars the doors. In the other video, apartment shoppers get locked inside a unit by the rental agent. The point? No one likes to get trapped, even in a home loan, so consumers should consider NAB’s flexible options. Don’t try this in kind of campaign in America, or you’ll get sued for kidnapping. Seriously.
Best Tear Jerker
Financial Institution: ASB Bank, New Zealand
Title: Mint Sauce
A young boy wants a new Nintendo DS. Alas, he can’t afford it. So the plucky little New Zealander decides to raise a sheep for slaughter (as boys in New Zealand so often do). But after nurturing his baby lamb, he has starts having second thoughts. In the end, he can’t do it, and opts to sell his sheep’s wool instead of its carcass. You know the expression, “You can sheer a sheep many times but only fleece it once?” It’s a touching production with a refreshing and honest perspective on humanity. It’s much more clever than many of the spot’s “Lemonade Stand” counterparts you see so often in the U.S.
Best Use of Man’s Best Friend
Financial Institution: FNB, Africa
Title: Lost Dog
This moody, 90-second TV commercial shows the lengths people are willing to go to for their pets… but with a clever, unexpected twist at the end. The minimalistic soundtrack (think: Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for “The Social Network”) creates a palpable tension, but the lofty narrated speech isn’t really needed. Dog lovers will totally relate to this spot.
Best ‘Glee’ Knockoff
Financial Institution: Innovations FCU, USA
Title: Bad Romance
The credit union’s staff get together for a dance routine ala Glee, set to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” There are two questions that will probably cross your mind when watching this video: (1) Who is this video for, and (2) how did a credit union with no more than 50 staffers wind up with so many young and attractive employees? The 4:48 long video obviously took a lot of staff time to produce, but with only 2,925 views, you might think it was more work than it was worth. But… Innovations’ employees clearly have a lot of fun making these little dance numbers, so maybe the answer to the first question is: The video is primarily made to benefit staff as an internal team/culture-building activity. You can see another video with the whole Innovations’ staff (including the CEO) in this superb 2009 Christmas video.
Most Ridiculous Lawsuit
Financial Institution: New Zealand Credit Union
This spot shows average consumers lugging their banker around everywhere, like monkeys on their backs. When one person toting a piggybanker walks into a New Zealand Credit Union branch, the banker gets tossed out. Bankers in New Zealand didn’t care for the message and filed a complaint, saying that it was an attack that discredited registered banks and thus was a deliberate attempt to undermine the stability of the country’s entire financial system. Psshaw!!! It’s a parody, lighten up.
Most Bizarre Cartoon
Financial Institution: Numerica Credit Union, USA
Title: Animal Instincts
This animated spot with bears and bunnies is so bizarre, you might have a hard time believing it’s a real commercial that actually aired on TV. You can watch another wacky animated ad — this one with raccoons — at the credit union’s official YouTube channel.
Best Drive-Thru Theater Act
Financial Institution: Michigan First Credit Union, USA
Title: Boogie Woogie Banking
Michigan First set up a hidden camera to film members’ reactions as a dance crew puts on a show in the credit union’s drive-thru lanes. “Would you like some entertainment today while you wait,” the drive-thru service rep asks. “Ummm, sure?” A troupe of seven young dancers pops out of nowhere, doing their thang to C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now.” The credit union also surprised drive-thru members with a mariachi band.
Best Mr. Mayhem Imitation
Financial Institution: RaboDirect, Australia
Title: Stealing Your Dreams
A metaphorical thief working on behalf of big, bad banks steals people’s financial dreams — the same kind of dark humor found in Allstate’s Mayhem anti-spokesman character. Consumers are encouraged to steal their dreams back with a 6.5% term deposit.
Best Pirate Movie
Financial Institution: Island FCU, USA
Title: Pirates Tale
Aye, this video be a wee bit unusual mates. It starts with a one-minute narrative about big banks swindlin’ yer doubloons, then shifts into a singing/dancing pirate act (if you’re thinking of “Pirates of Penzance,” you’re about right). The lyrics, costumes and props in this video are all worth checking out. The credit union turned the three-and-a-half minute pirate production into a 30-second TV spot. Their website even has a banner ad saying “Tell yer bank to walk the plank!”
Financial Institution: NAB, Australia
Title: Banks Hate Us
You’ve heard the expression, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Well NAB tries to ingratiate itself with consumers in this TV advert by painting itself as the bank hated most by other bankers. The bank’s reasoning: If other banks hate NAB, they must be doing something right. The spot puts a fresh spin on an all-to-common meme in financial advertising: the reasons why people hate banks.
Best Customer Testimonial
Financial Institution: Webster Bank, USA
Title: Type W Personality
This ad campaign features real Webster bankers and customers. The spot tells the story of one customer, Pat, who was about to depart for an early international flight. But Pat forgot her passport, which was locked in a Webster safety deposit box. So she calls Cheryl Poryanda, a real VP at Webster, who wakes up some folks to have them open the branch early. “Losing sleep over her customer’s needs? That’s just a part of Cheryl’s ‘Type W’ personality.”
Weirdest Use of a Talking Squirrel
Financial Institution: BankWest, Australia
Title: Click to Chat
A middle aged man woos his lunch date when a gust of wind suddenly blows his toupee off. Yikes! Fortunately, there is a talking squirrel lunching at the table right behind him. The helpful little bugger plops his tail perfectly over the man’s hairless dome. His date doesn’t notice, the man’s dignity saved.
It’s cute. It’s creepy. And what does it have to do with the bank’s innovative click-to-chat online customer service program? Who knows? But aren’t talking squirrels cute?
Best Use of Bad Habits
Financial Institution: UBank, Australia
This spot presents some common habits like nail-biting and toe-tapping in a lighthearted manner, then encourages viewers to start a new habit — one that’s good for you: a savings habit. As with many TV commercials these days, UBank opts for the creative non sequitur — 23 seconds of acerbic humor, followed by a casual segue into the product offer. It’s a good ad — better than most bank commercials — but it could do a bit more to highlight the benefits of frequent saving.
Best Use of a Goofy Foam Costume
Financial Institution: NAB, Australia
Title: We Killed The Asterisk
NAB ran a whole series of commercials where a couple of secret agents (Blues Brothers look-alikes) defeat a guy wearing a foam asterisk costume. The asterisk always ends up on the run and imperiled… or worse. NAB says consumers will undoubtedly encounter this evil asterisk character whenever other banks claim to have free checking. So NAB “kills” the evil asterisk to emphasize that their checking accounts have no/fewer conditions.