Here’s what greeted me on the front page of the New York Times 6:55am today, before I’d had the chance to take my first sip of coffee. Smart media choice… I’m absolutely the right consumer. But Ally’s new(ish) brand design direction has been eating at me for a while and before-coffee-Wylie isn’t terribly forgiving so this combination inspired me to call them out on it.
In the past, most if not all banks came across as unapproachable or out of touch in their advertising. They would use terms a normal person couldn’t possibly understand, or would twist words we could understand into sentences we absolutely didn’t in order to get around compliance issues. They kept stock houses in business, and relied more heavily on cliche scenarios or over-used metaphors than it seemed other brands and industries did. But over the past decade or so, it feels like a lot of them have lightened up, perhaps at the leading-by-example urging of brands who wisened up earlier on: Citi (Live Richly), E*TRADE, Geico, etc. These brands understood that even though the subject matter is serious – MONEY! – consumers are people, and people simply respond more positively to inspired (ie. not boring) advertising. So that’s all good. But then here’s Ally.
Ally wants me to know that they know financial services can be confusing, but it’s not at Ally. And that they know bank employees can use confusing language I don’t understand, but that’s the opposite of what happens at Ally. And that pricing and fees aren’t straightforward, but they are at Ally. I get all of that, and I’m sure anyone who sees these ads do too. But I have a super hard time taking them seriously. My second grader has better penmanship than their font, and I barely trust her with an allowance. And the word “awesome” is so over-used that my sister charges her husband and son $.25 every time they use it in undeserving contexts (which is pretty much every context unless you happen to be on top of the Grand Canyon.)
Plenty of brands are overcoming the stigma of big boring bank comms, and it is admittedly damn hard to do it well. But doing it so obviously is not the answer.