Historically, the banking and savings sector has been a bit like the car sector in its advertising output. It spends money on media like it's going out of fashion, it's one of the few remaining categories where there are discernible differences between the products, yet much of the advertising has seemed the same.
So little of it seems to make any perceptible effort to get closer to customers, which in view of the media flak banks field ought to be an absolute priority. Often, even when ads in this sector work as a branding device (Scottish Widows, Halifax and so on), they fail to engage on an emotional level or irritate beyond belief.
One of the honourable exceptions at the moment is Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Barclays campaign starring Samuel L Jackson. Judging from Campaign's post bag and having seen a couple of scurrilous spoofs thanks to friends in the City, I know these are not to everyone's taste but I'd argue that a couple of viewings (easily possible given the massive spend) soon get you past the difficulties in understanding all the dialogue.
While the honourable exceptions are rare, there has never been more reason for financial services advertising to work harder. Over the past few years, there's been a collective failure by both the savings industry and, by implication, the advertising industry to persuade people to save enough.
A recent study showed that people need to save 54 per cent more to fund their pension in line with their expectations. At the moment in the UK there is an annual savings gap of £27 billion, which is the second worst in Europe. At the same time as putting less aside for our old age than we should, we are making it worse by living longer.
So the danger is obvious. If the perils of the impending savings crisis are to be avoided, it is simply no good the financial services industry inventing new products if the advertising industry is unable to interest consumers in them.
And it is in this climate, with WCRS's new campaign for the Prudential, that something very interesting has happened. The "Man from the Pru" has gone virtual and been replaced by "the Plan from the Pru".
Commissioned poems reflecting the concerns of consumers were given to directors. Armed with a minuscule budget and with nobody from either the agency or client side at the shoot, they've shot and edited their own films. In my view, this is a campaign that has harnessed creativity in the broadest sense and the result is that the Prudential is showing itself to be genuinely on the customer's wavelength. I predict fame and fortune for client and agency alike.