Grading the 2016 Super Bowl Financial Services Commercials

Spoiler alert: All four of the financial services-related commercials shown during the 2016 Super Bowl get failing grades.

That said, I’m not alone in my opinion. In USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings of the 63 commercials, the four financial services entries came in at 48, 51, 53, and 59.

From a general consumer perspective, my guess is that these ads sucked because they weren’t entertaining, emotion-evoking, or even informative. Let’s take a closer look at each of the ads.

PayPal: “There’s a New Money in Town”

Grade: D

According to this ad, old money “closes at 5,” new money “is all people.” and that PayPal is “new money.” “All” people, according to PayPal, are young people of all races and genders. Ironically, according to AdMeter, this commercial scored highest consumers over the age of 65. In fact, as the age range declines, so does the score.

Younger consumers don’t need to be convinced that old money is for old people, and that mobile transactions are cool. Older consumers do. PayPal, however, has been around for ~15 years. Young consumers likely don’t see PayPal as “new money.” This ad doesn’t nothing to abuse them of this opinion.

Fun Fact: On a state-by-state basis, the PayPal ad scored highest among Rhode Island viewers. PayPal must be thrilled.

Quicken Loans: “What Were We Thinking”

Grade: D

Quicken Loans featured its new Rocket Mortgage, which “turns an intimidating process into an easy one.”The commercial even had the nerve to imply that making the mortgage application process easier would somehow boost the economy. Geez, why didn’t they tell that to Obama seven years ago? Could’ve saved us a lot of trouble!

The problem here–from an advertising perspective–is one that plagues most mortgage providers: Getting a mortgage is just one part of a long, complicated, and often stress-inducing process called “shopping for a new home.” I bet if USAA had advertised its Home Circle mobile app — which supports the entire home shopping process from house hunting through mortgage and home insurance — it would have scored significantly higher than the Quicken Loans ad.

There’s no doubt that the mortgage application process sucks at many banks, but advertising must address one of the two basic concerns prospective applicants have: 1) am I going to get approved? or 2) am I getting the best rate (and fees)?

Fun Fact: Once again, this ad scored highest among consumers over 65 (maybe they just like commercials better than younger consumers? oh wait, maybe they were more sober). Consumers under the age of 21, however, scored this ad higher than consumers in the 21-34 and 35-49 age ranges. Sadly (for Quicken), the lowest scores came from the segment (35 to 49 year old) most likely to be home buyers.

SunTrust: “Hold Your Breath”

Grade: D-

SunTrust exhorted viewers to hold their breaths, then told them that what they were feeling was akin to financial stress. The bank then claimed it would “help lead the way” to improving the nation’s financial confidence. How is the bank going to do this? Needless to say, there was no mention of that.

Was there nobody at the bank’s ad agency with access to consumer data that shows that many people believe that banks are the cause of financial stress and lack of confidence? It’s 2016. Consumers aren’t buying these empty promises that banks are going to somehow help people relieve their financial stress and/or achieve their financial dreams.

Fun Fact: SunTrust’s ad scored highest in Delaware and Maine. I don’t think SunTrust’s footprint includes Maine, does it?

SoFi: “Great Loans for Great People”

Grade: F– (double minus)

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hated this ad. Apparently, a lot of other people did, too, as it ranked 59 out of 63 ads. And that’s not good for a startup that brags about disrupting banking.

The commercial takes place in some unnamed city, and as the camera pans in on people walking down the street (or picking up their coffee at a faux Starbucks), the voice over says whether the particular person is “great” or “not great.” Great people get loans at SoFi, and, apparently “not great” people don’t.

Sucks if you’re not a great person, eh? How would you know if you’re great or not? Beats me.

Ben Brown of First Annapolis tweeted right after the ad was shown:

Bingo. I tweeted back: “Agreed. Lousy commercial. Think anybody’s gonna remember SoFi tomorrow? No.”

Couple of weeks ago, someone tweeted a picture of a direct mail they received from SoFi. And now this failed Super Bowl ad. The faux disruptor secured $1 billion in Series E funding from SoftBank last September. Apparently, the money is going to direct mail and Super Bowl advertising. Who would’ve thought that traditional advertising was the way to disrupt a market?

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