How to make financial advertising sexy again
Finance is boring right?
Numbers, percentages, rates…like many people you’re probably already glazing over and retreating into your happy place to avoid the crushing mundanity of it all.
Truth nuke alert. Finance has rarely been more important than it is right now.
Every week, we are all being accosted with important economic data, that we are somehow supposed to understand and apply to our own lives. Inflation, rising interest rates, PPI data, CPI data…yes, they are all as unsexy as a telegraph pole in sensible corduroy trousers. But these boring numbers have a massive impact on every single one of us today. Unfortunately, they are just presented in a way that basically makes them brain anaesthetic.
These numbers are the price of your weekly shopping. Your monthly mortgage. The security of your job.
And yet, advertising in this category is a melange of everything that you could possibly imagine, except anything that actually helps people understand the thing we are supposed to be selling—products and services that guide you towards fiscal responsibility.
Our job as advertising practitioners is to make anything palatable. Bleach, fake plastic cheese slices, Fyre Festival…it’s our bread and butter.
So why aren’t financial institutions using us to make numbers and financial information that people actually need sexy, funny or even heaven forbid…cool?
Don’t get me wrong, a bit of running with a black horse is fine and everything, but currently we need a bank that actually teaches something useful about finance to practically use in real life. They just need to do it entertainingly.
The cynical conspiratorial ones amongst us might say ‘but they don’t want us to actually understand this so they can profit off our ignorance’. Personally, I don’t actually think that’s true. ‘They’ are more likely to just be terrified of turning people off with numbers and lessons. Banks are like puppies; they just want to be loved and fed. With money. Not doggy treats. Unfortunately, they don’t accept treats yet as deposits, despite their rocketing price due to inflation.
So, what exactly is ‘interesting’ finance.
Take the movie ‘The Big Short’ for example.
You think 95% of the people who watched it knew what subprime mortgage bonds were? Bearing in mind most of those viewers probably suffered through the economic fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, the average person’s comprehension of the situation was ‘naughty banks did it’. And yes, I am very aware every advertising agency has, at some point, tried to pitch some kind of variation of Margot Robbie in a bath explaining complex information. But doing it again—and worse—for a brand, is a big no.
The game ‘Animal Crossing’, which literally gives you the opportunity to take out a mortgage from a raccoon and work out how to pay it off across the course of the game, teaches more to children about the complexities of the housing market than any parent can dream. How this raccoon became a powerhouse real estate tycoon in the first place is unfortunately never explained. I’m going to guess organised crime.
Jay-Z waxed lyrical about the importance of having a good credit score on ‘The Story of AJ’, whilst peppering in gems about capitalising on fast rising property prices and art prices.
These three alone have done more for expanding the public’s knowledge of finance and the economy than any financial advertising in history.
Of course, we have to sell things also.
But at a brand level, banks have long been portraying the feeling and emotion of what they offer, rather than actually what they offer, or why they offer it in the current financial climate.
This side of the work is usually cast into the doldrums of hard-working social content.
But hard working doesn’t have to be boring.
Maybe it’s time to flip that balance. Let’s make people feel good about a financial brand that actually explains why on earth people need to take out a second mortgage to afford Lurpak right now.
Let’s make fiscal responsibility and economic data sexy.
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