FINANCE: FINANCIAL REVIEW - The best financial ads convey complex messages clearly, Margaret Stone writes

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?'

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

Daily Mail.

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