The Red Zone – 14 February 2014

It was an impressive line-up of industry experts on the Adforum panel commenting on the latest financial services ads.

Sitting on the panel was Larry Khumalo (Ornico), Jonathan Deeb (Draftfcb), Adelle Wapnick (Lowe & Partners SA), Rob van Rooyen (House of Brave) and Terry Brown (Actuate) who gave their opinion on each of the ads up for discussion before the audience (consisting of leading marketing executives from the industry) gave it either a green card (I like it, it resonates) or a red card for those failing to make the grade.

Khumalo gave an overview of the financial services sector from an advertising and marketing perspective saying that since the onset of the global financial meltdown, this is one of the least trusted categories worldwide. Amongst the trends impacting the financial services sector are a rise in mobile, a greater focus on customer centricity, an emphasis on cost savings from the consumer’s perspective, a

greater integration between the cost versus value proposition, a focus on social media and service levels.


The first ad up for discussion was ABSA’s ‘Prosper’ TVC shot in a montage style. While the panel, on the whole, liked the ad, praising its production values, they questioned how impactful it really was and whether it achieved anything in terms of differentiating ABSA’s positioning. “If you took the logo away, this commercial could be for any other financial institution,” said Wapnick. The panel debated whether this commercial was in fact over-promising and discussed how important it was for brands to deliver believable messages. Although the ad had detractors, the majority gave this commercial a green card.

AdForum 14-02-2014

Allan Gray

In the interests of full disclosure, it’s probably best to admit that the ad shown was the cut version as opposed to the longer version. However, most members of the panel and audience had seen the uncut longer version of the ad. Allan Gray commercials, generally, were well liked with the brand praised for setting a new benchmark for financial services advertising. The panel were not unanimous in liking the shortened ad arguing that while this particular brand has always been consistent in its messaging, this ad felt like it was a disconnect and that the brand had switched strategy. They also stressed that even cut versions of commercials need to be able to viewed independently.

American Express

With few exceptions the panel agreed that this commercial was infinitely forgettable wallpaper. They surmised that the commercial had used an international ad and sliced in a section on a local black couple. “The commercial managed to include the logo in the first three seconds which means that it has short term brand linkage but probably not long term linkage. Overall the positioning was clever but the ad was kak,” opined Van Rooyen.

Deeb raised the point that an ad of this nature for an aspirational brand like American Express ultimately devalues the brand. The commercial got a red card.


This was one of the least imaginative ads on show, was not well produced and lacked an emotional connection but on the up side it delivered on a very real value and got to the heart of the issue quickly. The panel agreed that the commercial could have been executed better but the overall consensus was that it did the job and was given a green card.


An enjoyable commercial to watch with good production values but the execution was “over-cooked and over-complicated”, according to Deeb. It failed to adequately communicate the benefit and was red carded.


For a traditionally conservative bank to introduce a black comedian into an ad trying to sell a financial institution  just doesn’t work, maintained Khumalo who found the commercial condescending, as did other black members of the audience. In spite of his opinion, other panel members enjoyed the commercial but agreed that the comedian could overshadow the message and alienate certain consumers. On the whole, however, the commercial received a green card.

Old Mutual

This commercial had a huge amount of credibility and believability to it, the panel agreed. The production values were excellent and overall the commercial was both distinctive and memorable. The commercial received a resounding green card.

Prudential Portfolio Managers

Beautifully produced, this commercial works in spite of the fact that it doesn’t leave the viewer with a warm and fuzzy feeling. “Using shock and surprise can be very effective,” pointed out Deeb, who said the ad left him feeling uneasy although he agreed it was highly memorable.  The panel agreed that it was a great ad with very emotive content. The commercial received a green card.

Standard Bank

The panel were unanimous in agreeing that Standard Bank’s UCount was not a motivating proposition and was unnecessarily complicated by too many figures. The promise was intangible and overall the commercial was underwhelming. The commercial received a very definitive red card.


A highly dismissible commercial with poor production values, no discernible benefit and a poorly communicated message, the panel felt this commercial did not work and it was given a red card.

For Larry Khumalo’s full overview of the financial services sector go to