Are we entering a 'post-bank' era?

Are we entering a 'post-bank' world?

Apparently we are living in a ‘post-truth’ world, but are we in a ‘post-bank’ world yet? As technology takes over and VR deals with life’s major financial crises, Marcie MacLellan is here to tell us what to expect in this imminent financial reality...

Two exciting trends emerge from the whirlwind of 2016 to make their mark on the advertising world: the ongoing rise of technology and the slow but steady demise of spin. In a ‘post-truth’ world, customers are demanding authenticity in advertising. Increasingly tech savvy, they want it delivered in 140 characters or less.

These trends can appear contradictory on the surface – even more so for those advertising financial products and services. According to Mintel’s 2017 report, more and more consumers are not only expecting but demanding a more autonomous and mobile-centric banking experience. And yet, they still have an insatiable appetite for genuine human interaction. How does one find the balance?

Mobile and voice technology

HSBC’s new campaign, created by J Walter Thompson London, has done just that. Tapping into its customers’ desire for the latest innovations, its messaging continues to have a human feel. The first ad in its latest series focuses on HSBC’s voice-activated security, while also promoting its one day mortgage approvals, Fast Balance service and personal loan top-ups. It’s very cool. And very now.

According to David Clyde, business director at JWT London, HSBC’s integrated campaign includes outdoor, press, social, digital and TV, with a message of progress at its heart. Secret Den, the 60” TVC based on the story of a young boy trying to gain access into a group of friends’ mysterious den, has already racked up more than 2m views. It ends with a single provocative word: ‘onwards’.

This desire for progress was revealed among its target group in an in-depth segmentation study and, according to Clyde, is based on “belief in an open, connected and diverse world with an optimistic outlook”.

“Our customers see opportunity in change. Progress is very important to them. Not just on a personal level, but on a societal one.”

Live video platforms

Of course, HSBC isn’t the only financial giant to tap into the power of technology. Visa is also embracing technology for marketing their products; the brand quietly but effectively made its mark on the 2016 Olympics with a globally-friendly Facebook Live campaign. With more and more brands vying for space during the sporting frenzy, it wanted to try something innovative.

Each night of the Olympics, it put out a live, improvised comedy sketch based on daily news reports. Designed to appeal to its young, millennial audience, it was streamed in four different countries, each encompassing the language and comedic tastes of very different cultures.

Adding data into the mix made it even more ground-breaking. Facebook’s Julie Seal explains that the live platform allowed Visa to refine the campaign as it went along. Every day of the series, the team worked together to dig deep into the data of the previous episodes and continually iterated the content, the targeting and the media mix. If they knew one particular sport didn’t resonate in Poland, they could pull money out of Poland and put it into the UK. The media insights could tell the team what was connecting with audiences and what wasn’t.

“This was a totally new style of reactive zeitgeist- based behavior for a brand, media and creative agency, and it worked.” says Seal. “In fact, more people watched the Visa ‘Improv-Athlon’ than the opening ceremony of the Olympics in the UK.”

In the end, the campaign’s 98 bits of content drew 44 million viewers. Sponsorship awareness increased by 13% in Poland, 4% in Italy, 7% in Spain and by 9% in the UK between 25-44 year-olds. It is said that more people watched this content than watched the Christmas special of Eastenders, Downton Abbey, Coronation Street, the series finale of Game of Thrones and the final of the Great British Bake-off combined.

Virtual reality

While live platforms are steadily on the rise, quick on its heels is virtual reality. So much so, Goldman Sachs has predicted that the VR market will be bigger than TV in 10 years’ time.

Henry Stuart, chief executive and co-founder of Visualise, is far from surprised: “Virtual reality is becoming popular for brands, but it has a long way to go before it hits its potential – and that potential is huge”, he states. “The ability for the content to emotionally connect with people is not hyperbole. It’s the real thing.”

While the financial industry has been slower than others to adopt VR, Jim Marous, publisher of the Digital Banking Report, argues that financial marketers should become familiar with these platforms and fast, stating that “initial uses may revolve around advertising within apps, such as a branch or ATM finder, or could even be a standalone app like the home finder/buyer app from Commonwealth Bank of Australia.”

Among the financial brands to embrace VR, Visualise worked with Deloitte Digital on a proof of concept project designed to promote the organisation’s ethics and best practices. According to their marketing manager, Deloitte has always taken a novel approach to staff training programmes, whether they use online gamification for learning and development or take inspiration from TV show Peep Show for first person videos. Producing an immersive 360° video which encouraged users to visually spot mistakes within the immersive environment, was the next natural step in their innovative approach to team communications.

While Stuart says that the rise of VR has been temporarily stalled by the inadequately slow sale of headsets, what comes to the rescue is what he describes as the content platform of the year, 360° video. “When you put it in a headset, it is VR. But when we put 360° content on YouTube and Facebook, we can suddenly access huge numbers of people.”

When used correctly, these tech trends can, as Clyde says, “make global brands feel more personal, more human”. Which is why, this time next year, live, 360° and VR will become a serious consideration for all advertisers with the budget to afford it. But they must remember that while technology is always swift, it is rarely seamless. With brand exposure at an all- time high and attention spans at an all-time low, we must first deliver content that is irresistibly relevant, inherently sharable and fundamentally honest, no matter the platform.

Marcie MacLellan is founder and head of content for Frank & Lively, the London content agency serving global brands, leading agencies and the UK’s largest film funders. Frank & Lively is a proud partner of The Drum’s Create Britain campaign.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network supplement magazine on 8 March 2017.

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