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Friday, 27 May 2011

How should a bank advertise? And a little corporate nonsense to end the week on a low note

If you follow these romps through the social underground, you may recall my piece a few days ago about a crass ad run by Barclays Bank.

Ann Lewis Scarff, a realtor in Las Vegas described my suggestion that banks are “Abdicating responsibility as a business objective” as “key words. Banking & advertising ties fiduciary responsibility and liability. With the mtg. meltdown & recession I'd love to hear how you would approach a positive ad approach for banking".

She carried on, "Backing business for over 300 years" actually makes a bold statement in this economic climate” and suggests, “I'd put up a photo of the guy behind the old Cashier's Cage bars holding cash & smoking a cigar.... you have to be a tough cookie to walk the line & still be successful in banking...”

Being a bit thick I don’t entirely understand everything she wrote, but if you want to do better advertising it’s a good idea to start with what most people are thinking.

First, any reader who bothered to notice the ad will have thought, “Who cares what you’ve been doing for 300 years? I’ve got my own problems right now - and the banks are no help.”

So you’d definitely have to ditch that boastful and quite exceptionally dull headline.

David Ogilvy called that sort of bragging flatulent puffery. Every competent copywriter knows it’s just as bad an idea in advertising as it is in real life.

A second thought would surely be, "Come off it. We know you thieving bankers have taken our money and are giving it out in massive bonuses rather than help businesses. Stop bullshitting me."

I would return to the basics of copy which so few big agency copywriters are aware of.

One example is worth a mountain of claims. If they have been helping businesses, they should run ads telling who and how. Nothing else could hope to convince.

Just as the internet shysters can always bolster their claims with testimonials from the few people who have succeeded in making all that cash they promise, surely the banks must be able to find some customers they’ve helped.

So that’s the way I would go.

Talking about dumb copy, a thing that's just made me gnash my teeth is a message from a firm called Yodel. I suspect it is run by idiots, because their competence is at the same level as their copy: subterranean.

They were supposed to be delivering some coffee from Nespresso. We were out, so they left one of those irritating cards. The numbers to quote were so badly written I couldn’t decipher them. And nor could the lady I spoke to (at my expense) after pressing umpteen buttons.

It was finally established that they had sent nothing – or had no record of having done - to our address. So how did they leave the leaflet? Are there dwarves wandering round Clifton delivering leaflets at random?

But nothing in all this annoyed me as much as the message I got when I rang to sort out this mess, announcing that Yodel is “the new name for your delivery partner”.

Look, when I am trying to find out where something is I really don't want some out of work actor wasting my money by spouting witless slogans.

I am not aware of having ever had a delivery partner or wanting one. I have business partners. I have a lady I sometimes call my partner because mistress is condescending and inaccurate, lover sounds silly - and boss, whilst accurate, is demeaning. I used to have partners for bridge. But I don't want a delivery partner. There is no vacancy. Especially if that creature cannot deliver.

“What,” I asked the lady on the phone, “was the old name of my new delivery partner.”

“DHL,” she replied.

“Useless twats,” I muttered to myself. "That explains it. They were ashamed to say who they were before."

Here's a suggestion.

Yodel - so useless we had to change our name from DHL.

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