First Direct introduces 'money wellness' campaign to tackle financial anxiety

Bank wants to normalise people's feelings about money in debut work by The Brooklyn Brothers.

First Direct: campaign includes outdoor activity
First Direct: campaign includes outdoor activity

First Direct has launched a campaign aimed at normalising people’s feelings about money in the first work for the bank by The Brooklyn Brothers. 

"#MoneyWellness", debuting on Monday, is a new brand platform for the HSBC-owned bank, which marked its 30th anniversary last year. While the UK’s health and wellness industry is set to top £43bn in 2020, the sector often fails to tackle one of the biggest sources of anxiety for people: money. First Direct will address this by attempting to change attitudes about money and reassure people that they are not alone. 

According to a First Direct survey, a majority of UK consumers believe money is more important to their overall well-being than other more traditional areas of wellness, such as diet and exercise. Its research, which will launch this month, will include the first-ever benchmark measuring the current state of the nation’s relationship with money. 

Money wellness means "feeling confident about your finances and the financial decisions you make", Helen Priestley, chief marketing officer at First Direct, told Campaign

"Banks are where people put their money and engage, so if we can’t talk about [money] both positively and negatively, then who can?" Priestley said. "We’re doing it in a really human, honest, non-judgmental way. We’ve got humanity at our heart."

The campaign will run across digital, press, social media and outdoor, with lines including: "There’s no right way to money." A series of social films feature real people from around the UK candidly discussing their relationship to money and beliefs that have held them back, such as the trap of comparing themselves to others. 

"Wellness has become such a big part of our lives in different areas, so it seems crazy that no-one is helping us with our money worries, which are a big source of anxiety," Cali Oliver, creative director at The Brooklyn Brothers, said. 

In the UK and beyond, money remains a taboo topic of conversation. While making the films, some participants were eager to talk about it, while others were hesitant at first to divulge details about their financial situations, Oliver said. 

However, Priestley observed that people "were like balloons – once you stick a pin in, the air comes out. Money is supposed to be taboo, but everyone wants to talk about it." 

But more than simply getting people to chat about money, First Direct wants to "normalise" their feelings about it, Priestley explained. 

"If people realised that everyone felt like they did, then they would feel less anxious, less concerned and more able to make active decisions on their behalf," she said. "I don’t think we all have to stand around talking about money, but we do have to understand that the way we feel is probably how others feel, and that’s OK. We have to allow people to stop feeling bad, take positive action and feel more positive."

First Direct hired The Brooklyn Brothers in October to overhaul its brand marketing after a pitch, with the agency replacing Karmarama, which previously positioned the brand as a "modern, digital bank".

As challenger brands such as Monzo, Starling Bank and Klarna have entered the sector in recent years, First Direct had "potentially lost its voice", Oliver explained. 

"‘Money wellness’ is what First Direct has always done," she said. "Thirty years ago, they challenged what it meant to be a bank and took on those old rules of banking. And now with that same kind of challenger brand mentality and energy, we can challenge the way people feel about money."

For First Direct, the campaign is only the beginning of what it hopes will become a full-blown movement of money wellness within the company and beyond. 

"I would like to see how this campaign evolves so we can do more," Priestley said. "For me, this is an ad campaign, but it’s much more than that. It’s our next chapter."