Creating disruption: Advertising financial services and Nutmeg's new campaign

Will Railton
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Nut tells Meg condescendingly that she'll need to keep an eye on her investments

When it comes to selling financial services, advertisers have their work cut out. Consumer scepticism is rife and the jargon is labyrinthine. “There’s a perfect storm,” says Laurence Green, co-founder of 101, which handles the creative for Scottish Widows. “Too often, financial services firms’ brief to advertisers is: ‘We’re basically the same as everyone else; can you make us different?’ Usually, superficial differentiation is not the basis for lasting success.”

There is a cocktail of other issues. “The industry is not necessarily customer-focused,” says Craig Mawdsley, chief strategy officer at AMV BBDO. “The money that companies make is based on the money they get from customers, and not the number of customers itself.” Stricter regulation has arguably made it more difficult for financial brands to communicate in ways which most people can understand. “The regulation has been put together by people who don’t necessarily have a lot of empathy with customers,” says Mawdsley.

But are these problems common across the industry? The virtue of fintech challengers like Nutmeg, Zopa and Atom Bank may be their unique propositions. “First Direct came from left-field and won a number of effectiveness awards for its campaign because it came from a different starting point,” says Green. Others think that marketing may be harder for fintech firms, which are often highly specialist, to make themselves more customer-centric. “Most are even more entrenched in arcane financial jargon,” says Mawdsley. “They make their money from large amounts coming from a small customer base.”

Nutmeg, an online investment startup, which launches its first TV campaign this evening, is leveraging its offering as a platform which simplifies investment and makes its charges transparent, to make its advertising succeed where larger players have not. “It was a tricky brief,” says chief revenue officer Martin Stead. “We’re trying to drive up customer awareness, explain what we do and why it’s better than the rest, and have a strong call to action. That’s difficult when two thirds of our target audience are aspiring investors who may have a greater propensity to be risk-averse.”

Nutmeg’s animated TV spot uses an online video format called xtranormal, in which a customer in a phone shop blindly justifies her decision to buy an iPhone. Despite the overwhelming evidence from the shop assistant that an HTC is better, the customer blankly responds: “I don’t care.” “We were trying to find a way to juxtapose the ridiculousness of the old way of investment with the smart new way,” says Stead. In the Nutmeg ad, the savvy Meg simply responds “Just Nutmeg it,” when the stressed and stuffy looking Nut complains that if Meg wants to invest, she’ll “have to get a monacle to keep a big, beady eye on all those fees.”

“The whole point about Nutmeg is that it is trying to widen the base of people making financial decisions, and is trying to challenge the market for the good of the customer,” says Mawdsley, whose agency AMV BBDO handled the campaign’s creative, which also has out-of-home, digital and print executions. “We thought, how can we get into people’s lives rather than waiting for them to come to us? We wanted to break through and create something which was a genuine customer brand, rather than a finance brand.”

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