OPINION: Mills on ... Egg

What's going on? When I was a lad, the bank manager, according to the advertising I remember, was an avuncular sort of chap who lived in the cupboard under your stairs. In the ads, men who looked like Larry Barker would pop out and gently remind you of their wonderful loan facilities.

What's going on? When I was a lad, the bank manager, according to the advertising I remember, was an avuncular sort of chap who lived in the cupboard under your stairs. In the ads, men who looked like Larry Barker would pop out and gently remind you of their wonderful loan facilities.

I wouldn't say Larry Manager was fun to have around but he knew his place.

Now, according to the latest Egg campaign from HHCL & Partners, the bank manager isn't even a manager anymore. He's a Scots bloke called Rob who wears a polo shirt and probably has a wanky title like 'customer facilitator'. That's just for starters. In the new campaign, Rob intrudes in various ways into the life of Stuart, an Egg customer. We see Rob getting into bed with Stuart, giving him advice on his girlfriend Louise and even jumping into the shower to give him a damn good soaping. 'She doesn't love you, Stuart. Louise can't love you like we do,' he weedles. 'Does Louise allow you to easily shop around for your own ISAs and unit trusts and control your own money?'

Creepy it is. It reminds me of the film Single White Female in which Jennifer Jason Leigh gradually insinuates herself into a trusting Bridget Fonda's life as her new best friend and then takes it over - clothes, boyfriend, identity, everything.

Back to that later. What of the strategy? When Egg launched with by far the highest deposit rate in the market, it was swamped by deposits. Unfortunately, they were the wrong kind of depositors. Egg wanted young people. What it got was the so-called 'rate tarts', who not only deposited huge sums of money but, because they were older, didn't need to borrow and had all the financial services products they needed - exactly the customers banks don't want.

Since then, Egg's rates have become less competitive, the rate tarts have gone and it is left with the customers it wants - young, internet savvy and so on. So far, so dandy. The real trick to achieving profitability, however, lies in cross-selling services to existing customers. To meet its profits targets, Egg needs to sell an average of two extra products per customer.

When you understand this, it's easy to see the strategy and the point of Rob and his relentless evangelisation of Egg's product range. But is Rob really the right way to go about it? More than one woman I know - and they're all in the Egg target market - see Rob and think of stalkers.

It scares the hell out of some people. And as for blokes, well you don't have to be a homophobe to find Rob's invasion of Stuart's personal space disturbing.

Of course, we're not supposed to take it seriously. But Egg is a bank, and banks deal with the intimate details of their customers' lives. The message I get is that Egg staff will happily violate my privacy just to sell me a few of its products. At a time when the biggest issue facing the internet, let alone internet banking, is security, that's playing with fire. No doubt they'll deny that. But let me quote you HHCL's description of the ads as taken from its website: 'The creative works on several levels - at one level, Egg is a company which cares about its relationship with its customers so, if you choose to, you can take it literally. On the other hand, the humour lies in the clearly absurd lengths Rob will go to to help the Egg customer.'

Yeah, well, all that double-think is a bit too clever for me. As Tweedledee said in Alice in Wonderland: 'If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'



Stalking? Isn't that scaremongering? Try Ian McEwan's Enduring Love and read about the male stalker with De Clerambault's Syndrome.

So you reckon it'll polarise punters? It's the Barclays 'big' of virtual banks.

No chance of an Egg account for you? I like my bank staff where I can see them and, er, I'm with Barclays and staying there.



dominic.mills@haynet.com.



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