Advertising Mistakes Banks Commit – Anup Kumar Agarwalla

We trust them with our life’s savings. We pay for their services, often through our noses. And, it is the money that they make off us, that is used to pay for those glossy ad’s that stare at you from the magazines, hoardings and television commercials. Naturally, the least that we can do, as loyal customers, is take a glance; perhaps even mull over the message that is sought to be conveyed. But do we?

Anup Kumar Agarwalla

We don’t. For bank ads are boring. As boring as a bank that is neck deep in NPA and still wants to give you sermons about savings. But let us not get into the ethics of it and stick to the advertising. Bank advertisements are boring as they – routinely and almost by rote – commit some fundamental mistakes.

For One, they try to deluge the reader with information. The font size is normally an affront to the eyes with dense copy that makes no sense. That is if you read them. Most people don’t. That means money down the drain. Your money, my money. And that is the biggest mistake they commit – assuming, that people will read whatever they choose to dole out.

Then comes the Bank’s perpetual inability to understand its target audience. Their ads are more often than not, aimed at the wrong audience and seeks to communicate stuff that is irrelevant to them. Its either a geriatric couple or a smiling family of four, seeking to sell every kind of retail service with an equally contrite copy to boot – across the media spectrum. Whose eyeballs are you seeking mate?

The third cardinal sin that Banks commit is assuming that the competitors know something that they don’t. That is why bank advertising, without exception, is so damn predictable. Nobody wants to break out of the herd with Control C and Control V (cut, copy and paste) ruling the roost.

The fourth mistake that Banks commit on a fairly regular basis is in the choosing of the media – the delivery vehicles for their communication messages. They are overwhelmingly wedded to the print and the television (that too, often to the wrong vehicles within these board platforms), ignoring the emerging media. Point is, the younger generations have long moved away from these mediums and most of the hard cash that is still being spent here is a sheer waste. Forget about the cost of lost opportunity due to the stoic (stubborn) refusal to embrace the new.

Another mistake that Banks commit is embedded in their belief that their work ends with the passing of the release order. Seldom do Banks follow up to track the effectiveness of their messages / communication. Tracking of results – effectiveness of ads – is something that is near alien in banking circles, which is perhaps why, the same mistakes get committed and repeated ad nauseam. Okay, in traditional media where the overwhelming bank advertisements are, such exercises are difficult to conduct but are not impossible. And Social Media is all about the ROI. But who cares?

And finally let me share a part of the blame. Its also about choosing the wrong agency for the job. Banks have their own pet agencies where being creative is all about finding newer ways of scratching each other’s backs. The tendering process, the lowest bid, the pre-qualification clauses – are not exactly conducive to creativity and naturally, the mavericks who are capable of pulling off that message that will reverberate for times to come are conspicuous in their absence. The Taj Mahal, would not have been built had the mandates gone to the lowest bidders. Period.

The young people are out there in the net. They have the money to help banks get on to the next orbit. They are educated and highly aware about not only what they want, but are also increasingly particular about the brands they associate with. They are talking about you (and it is not always charitable). They certainly don’t have the loyalty of their parents, will take their business to wherever they are comfortable and are in a hurry. Chances are, your message is not reaching them. You have not attracted their eyeballs. And in its absence their footfalls will not honour you with their patronage. They are the future. If your advertising still doesn’t tango with them ….

(Anup Kumar Agarwalla is an ad-guy whose passion is branding. He has been running his agency, providing brands with their salience for more than a decade and is one of the most accomplished creators of communication ditty’s.)   

  • This piece was originally written for the Financial Express BFSI 2017