Maybe it's because I'm interested in money - personally and
professionally -that I find financial ads less confusing than, say, car
ads, where I always seem to be asking, 'What was all that about?'
It could also have something to do with the nature of the product:
savings, investments, pensions and money management are too important to
muck around with; particularly when so many people confess they find the
subjects a dead bore. So why should I have assumed that financial ads
would be clear, funny (to relieve the tedium), relevant to ordinary
people and clever-clever to a limited degree?
1 Euro by TBWA GGT Simons Palmer. Where has the Government been this
decade? Its Euro awareness campaign, with the brash young businessman
bashing his colleagues around the head because they are not taking the
Euro on board, has stepped straight out of a management training video
from the 'serious money' aggressive 80s.
Most viewers didn't need telling the Euro was coming. Other data was in
short supply. One brief reference to the fact that companies need to
adjust their pricing policies and invoicing if they trade in Euroland
was their lot. But the management message - perfect planning prevents
pathetic performance - was a memorable bit of brain-washing, even if it
wasn't much to do with the Euro.
2 Pearl by HHCL & Partners. Everyone knows that they ought to manage
their money better. The problem is getting people to do something about
it. Pearl's ads are all about jolting people into action, such as the
improvident dad borrowing money from his son, because for just one
second, they are forced to think: 'Who will look after me if I
It's a powerful message and Pearl is right not to let product
information intrude. The welfare state is dying on its feet and God help
those who don't make provision for the future. I suspect that by
advertising industry standards, the ads are neither sophisticated nor
clever; but they could spur viewers into action.
3 Egg also by HHCL. I don't know who perpetrated the myth that a
Scottish accent creates confidence where money matters are concerned.
For some of us, it is a literal turn-off. It didn't augur well for the
Egg advertisements that the psychologist subjecting Linford Christie and
Zoe Ball to the lie-detector test was Scottish.
The ads are all the things that the Pearl ads are not: clever,
self-consciously aimed at the young and irritating to the eye.
Memorable? Yes. I now know that Linford Christie tested positive for
drugs in 1988 and was subsequently cleared. But you'd be hard pushed to
remember much about Egg. Does 'tailored solutions for each customer' out
of the mouth of a blonde bimbo - or anyone else, for that matter - mean
4 Alliance & Leicester by BMP DDB. If I thought the heavy-handed humour
of these ads was dreadful, what did Morris dancers and trainspotters
think of them? I couldn't even understand the Mummerset and Nerdshire
accents on the second and third time of viewing.
However, by the time I had run the ads through several times more, I
realised that at least they did say something . Viewers are given, only
once mind you, a sensible and easy to understand definition of a
capped-rate mortgage and a money-back credit card, so it can't all be
bad. But in real life I suspect I would be getting myself a glass of
wine when the ads come round for a second time on the screen.
5 Scottish Widows by Dewe Rogerson. Am I alone in believing that the
Scottish Widows' widder woman should be starting to draw her pension by
now? I'm bored with her and her elegant 'I know best' looks at the end
of the commercials for the Widows. The storyline in the latest ad is in
the confused genre. Has Bob retired? Been sacked? Become chief executive
or won a major contract?
It fits the commentary well enough: investment products that are
flexible enough to cope with whatever life deals you. But the message
and its delivery are as boring as the widow herself.
Margaret Stone is a personal finance specialist who until the end of
1998 was the editor of Money Mail, the personal finance section of the
This article was first published on Campaign