After being teased with “can’t” we now see the “can” campaign in full from Commonwealth Bank.
Much has been written about the merits of the teaser campaign, about those that ambushed it and if it was effective against the target, assuming that we know who it is targeted at and what effect “teasing” has on a target inundated with advertising messages? I think “teasing” is a figment of the agencies imagination and the consumer rarely notices the message, despite a massive amount of expensive media.
This campaign has plenty of polish. M&C Saatchi work their magic in film and their creative team wrote a very nicely crafted poem as well (see the bottom of the post for the words), delivered impeccably by Toni Collette, who is surprisingly appropriate for the tone of the ad.
You are invited into the prospect of a great big brand reveal in the ad. Nike? A charity? Perhaps a vocational career? Saving the world or rain forests?
And then it’s a bank?
Some more cynical consumers might say that banks are the antithesis of “can”. They could pass on the interest rate cuts in full, but “can’t” due to the bottom line, economy, shareholders etc. Banks certainly suffer in a financial crisis and are often and sometimes wrongly (who helped me buy the house again…?), portrayed as the pariah of the masses. They are arguably no longer a badge of honor for employees – all post GFC issues that are very real if you are trying to attract and retain customers and the best staff.
So back to the bank ad, it positively glows with warmth and radiates assured positive vibes…the choice of Toni and the strategy to read a nice poem about the “possible” entertains and entices beautifully. It is a very slick, simple piece of work that you enjoy viewing.
But what is it aiming to achieve?
I wonder if a large part of the client “buying” the campaign is to do with internal communications? If all Commbank staff adopted a “can do” mentality, the customers might be happier which equals more money and happier staff, which equals happier customers and more money (over simplified I accept).
I am less certain about the relevance of “can” to the bank’s consumers when delivered so conceptually via a TV ad. Are people likely to be left feeling inspired, perhaps taking up that hobby after all, but left confused about what it means to their banking?
The consumer might be doubting the message given their experience.
They might be thinking where is “can” when they ask if they can lower their interest rate on the mortgage, or when they ask if Commbank can better a competitors rate? The “can do” concept is contrary to the current perceived truth and I am left wondering what facts back up this “can do” claim? If there are new products and services in this regard, the campaign could be a golden opportunity to make this known? If this is a precursor to all the answers about what Commbank “can do” then it could develop nicely. Perhaps if you go in and ask you just might get a deal (…a bit like Bing Lee)?
But this particular ad is all about emotional not rational values. And perhaps this is where it misses an opportunity to “sell” in the minutes worth of poetic action. Why not do both?
Advertising should close the deal. It should engage you emotionally and entertain you, whilst convincing you rationally of the product or services it wants you to buy. It is a sales tool (sorry, but it really is). It gives you reasons to believe and then act. With a significant media spend on TV, I feel both emotional and rational messages should be in the ad to drive engagement and “sales”.
This is arguably a very unfashionable and even old-fashioned view of the art of advertising. One held by the likes of John Hegarty, Dave Trott and the like (try DT’s blog for more).
Consumers should be credited with the capacity to look at advertising and discern the sales message amongst the shine of a polished ad. This is what great advertising does – engage and sell.
I may be doing a disservice to the Commbankers who will certainly have a clever “can” direct mail out there, giving some rational reasons as to what Commbank “can do” tout de suite! This could be the entrée to a campaign about all the proof points as to why Commbank can? But such a good ad would be a great ad if it delivered a reason “why” or “how” Commbank “can” in these 60 seconds.
The current reality is that the press is full of contradictory stories on the problems in the sector and Commbank has taken a fair share of criticism over job cuts and mortgage rates, leaving consumers with a different perception of the product to that presented in the ad. and testing the credibility of the “can” promise with consumers. Consumers are suspicious of banking institutions and are lacking confidence in their motives.
This ad is wonderfully produced, full of emotional engagement, but what is it hoping to achieve without some rational reasons to believe in the bank’s products and act? Maybe the next bit of the campaign is the hard sell?
Commbank doesn’t need to build awareness, it doesn’t need to change the colour of the logo, it needs to change negative attitudes based on what consumers perceive the banks to be and give skeptical people rational reasons to move from their bank to Commbank. The hardest bit is done – it captures the attention in a positive manner, but what am I motivated to do?
I don’t think that the current mortgage rate and GFC driven negative perceptions to banking / individual banks can be altered by just the warmth of a positive, well presented, but ultimately generic “feel good” statement. This is a luxury most advertisers can’t afford and most CFO’s won’t support. Customers treat this category seriously and need compelling reasons to break up with their bank and get a better deal elsewhere. This isn’t selling cosmetics it’s selling control and care of your cash.
The excellent NAB ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDbvAEcP_2k took the decision to be “on your side” and “break up” with those other bad banks. BUT it also had one of the lowest mortgage rates of the high street banks. Clever, creative and insightful advertising backed up by a strong product proposition.
ING got it right with a simple, well branded ad that showed the interest rate. Less likely to win awards, but more likely to win customers for who it is relevant (I want to save money), interesting (orange apes?) and motivating (the best rates).
The Saatchi and Commbank marketing team are all top players in the game. As noted, this could be the opener to a campaign full of answers for the rational side of the pitch of new products and services, all predicated with what Commbank “can” and will do for you.
They have a new set of TV ads out here…New Commbank Campaign so judge for yourself. I think the best rational support is delivered in the press ads posted later here: CommBank Press Campaign. The most recent work takes yet another direction with James Magnussen.
Ultimately I still believe that this TV creative could have been a much more effective ad if it had the rational “what we can do for you” sales message incorporated, complementing the engaging entertainment. A much bigger creative challenge, but with much greater rewards.
But hang on…What about BT?
An interestng post script to this high-profile campaign are the reports in Mumbrella and AdNews of plagiarism, even if it is from the same agencies earlier work in 1999 for BT in the UK. The similarities are striking – the original BT work was pitched as follows:
“Focusing on the idea that chief executives hate the word ’can’t’, poster sites on major routes into London will initially carry a teaser campaign reading simply ’Can’t’.
“After a few days, the teaser will be transformed into ’Can’ with paint, eggs and graffiti, above the line, ’BT. You Can.”
An interesting conversation between agency and client no doubt as it potentially takes the polish off this one, but then how many ideas are truly original and who but a few of us actually remember 1999?
Here’s the the poem in full…every ounce of creative copywriting!
Ode to Can.
There’s a four lettered word
As offensive as any
It holds back the few
Puts a stop to the many.
You can’t climb that mountain
You can’t cross the sea
You can’t become anything you want to be.
He can’t hit a century
They can’t find a cure.
She can’t think about leaving or searching for more.
Because Can’t is a word with a habit of stopping
The ebb and the flow of ideas
It keeps dropping
itself where we know in our hearts it’s not needed
And saying “don’t go” when we could have succeeded.
But those four little letters
That end with a T
They can change in an instant
When shortened to three.
We can take off the T
We can do it today
We can move forward not back
We can find our own way.
We can build we can run
We can follow the sun
We can push we can pull
We can say I’m someone
Who refuses to believe
That life can’t be better
With the removal of one
What were they thinking???:
Any good and fair work done by CommBank (plagiarism aside) has been potentially ruined by their on-line attempt at humour – a joke set in London featuring a back-pack bomb hoax. Now removed by CommBank, but widely reported. Interesting proof if it were needed of the reach and impact of some viral on-line efforts.
High Profile = High Parody
As a more lighthearted close, here is a Sportsbet parody of this more than earnest effort by Toni. Sportsbet have offered a ‘can can’ dance off to see who would host each others ad for 24 hours and donate $50,000 to charity – CBA declined on the basis that they don’t gamble with charity donations (…and this is more NAB territory!). Perhaps they might have chosen a more human answer and capitalised on this PR opportunity?
And Finally…Gloss vs Gold?
So after all is said and first posted, what is the final (final!) take on the campaign?
Fundamentally I think that this is a big idea. Nice to see.
An idea that relies on a big voice and a lot of support in all areas of the business. Also being executed well in terms of spend and ‘touch points’
It started in a esoteric, ethos sort of way, which lost it for me – a bit too much emotion without the support. It subsequently (and as of Sept) has reverted to much more traditional ‘proof point’ rational advertising. Saying exactly what Commbank can do. Not award winning, but useful delivery of attitude changing info with the emotional engagement of a can do attitude:
This is an idea with many, many facets to the campaign.
I still believe that the campaign would have been more effective in changing hearts and minds if the campaign that melded the emotional and rational messages from the start. It is always a lot to assume that people follow every twist and turn of a big campaign. However loud it shouts.
A lot of money was spent saying ‘can’ and teasing the consumer into being interested. Despite the new sexy image of banking, I still don’t think finance is just about the gloss (the poem opener) when people are counting their gold (i.e. what is the best rate for me?).
Perhaps more might have been devoted to ‘can do what exactly’ from the opener?
And some of the best, most innovative things Commbank have done – make a Kaching payment app in the face of an amazing omission from the new iPhone, and give your iPhone an invaluable tool to look for and buy your new house.
Nice to see something different generating plenty of opinions.
- James Magnussen and CommBank Can / Can’t, versus NAB honesty push (sullieseverything.wordpress.com)
- CommBank “can” press campaign (sullieseverything.wordpress.com)
- CommBank “Can” Campaign – Kaching, Concierge, Sandcastle and Lollipop ladies (sullieseverything.wordpress.com)
- Commonwealth Bank “Can” “Can’t” Campaign with Toni Collette (sullyseverything.wordpress.com)
- Sportsbet and CommBank go to war over ‘Can’ parody (mumbrella.com.au)
- CommBank asks: Why are we waiting to buy the things we need? (mumbrella.com.au)
- CommBank apologises for Olympic backpack bomb hoax ad (mumbrella.com.au)
- Sportsbet challenges CommBank to cancan dance-off to settle copyright dispute (mumbrella.com.au)
- Bank pulls Olympic ad after terror joke (news.com.au)