Stylist and NatWest have defended criticism that its "A woman’s worth" campaign is sexist by explaining that the work was aimed at stimulating a reaction.
As part of the campaign, Stylist ran an open letter written by "Mr Banker" in which NatWest apologised for patronising and ignoring women when it came to their financial needs. However, some Twitter users have called this "tone-deaf".
The work, created in-house by NatWest and Stylist, was supported by a PR stunt in which copies of the magazine featuring the letter were handed out across London by men dressed as old-fashioned bankers.
Ella Dolphin, chief executive of The Stylist Group, said the campaign was deliberately provocative, despite Twitter reactions suggesting "it really missed the mark" and it was the "right sentiment, wrong way of going about it".
"We expected it to be polarising," Dolphin said. "The tone we used and the 'Mr Banker' personality was reserved purely for the stunt. As we move further into the partnership with NatWest, we will be tackling the issues of confidence and how women are spoken to in a different way."
Dolphin added that the start of the campaign had achieved its aim of getting a response and that "three times as many people who tweeted to complain" have signed up to NatWest and Stylist's Women's Worth Collective platform since the PR stunt.
It is part of a seven-month campaign that will address the gender bias in past financial ads. NatWest wants to tackle "the enduring impact of a culture that has made women feel ignored and patronised". As part of the work, the bank is sharing ads from its archive to highlight how banks used to speak to women.
In response to the negative reaction, a spokesperson for NatWest said: "We wanted to start a conversation about how banks talk to their female customers about money.
"While many women feel confident when it comes to finances and investing, research has shown that a huge number of women don’t feel the same way. A recent YouGov survey highlighted that 83% of women feel like banks don’t make products easy to understand and we want to play a leading role in fixing that."
Further print, online and video content, alongside an event, are planned for the "A woman’s worth" platform over the coming months.
This article first appeared on PRWeek sister title Campaign