The financial services sector is set to become significantly more competitive given that a number of new banks have either opened their doors for business or are in the process of doing so. They include Discovery Bank, TymeBank and Bank Zero. African Bank’s decision to pursue a more digital route to market adds to this.

However, banking commercials consisted of just 3% of all new ads from November 1 2018 to  January 31 2019, according to research conducted by Ornico. This points to an overall decline in financial services adspend from the same period a year earlier. Among the top six banks, only Absa was consistent in its adspend. Many of its competitors spent cautiously.

At a recent AdForum event held in partnership with Ornico in Johannesburg the financial services sector came under the spotlight. A brand commercial for Absa received a mixed response from the AdForum audience. Panellist Fran Luckin, chief creative officer at Grey Africa, said while she loves the concept of Africanacity, grit and tenacity, the commercial could have included a better story. She said she believed most viewers would have tuned out of the commercial by the time it “got to the good part”.

Mongezi Mtati, marketing manager at Ornico, was equally lukewarm in his response to the commercial, saying that if the branding were to be removed, this could be a Vodacom or other technology company’s commercial, which indicates the significant shift banking sector ads have made in the past five years. He added that the term Africanacity has yet to make it into popular culture or into the SA lexicon.

A commercial for Better Bond was better received by the AdForum audience, which praised it for saying what it was offering clearly and succinctly. However, while the message is clear, panellist Thibedi Meso, the executive creative director at House of Brave, questioned whether it was entertaining and memorable. “I’m not convinced,” he said.

Danny Druion, creative director at Cerebra, was similarly unconvinced. “I didn’t hate this ad, but in a crowded space it does not necessarily stand out and is likely to become wallpaper,” he said.

A Bidvest commercial advertising the Bidvest Grow Account was criticised for showing little differentiation. Meso pointed out that the commercial appeared to have been produced with a very limited budget and was missing a message that resonated with viewers.


“In a space where brands are competing with much bigger budgets, this commercial does not communicate a compelling incentive for consumers to save with Bidvest rather than one of its competitors,” pointed out Mtati.

A Capitec commercial advertising the Capitec Masterpass app was rated as average by delegates. Druion liked the ad, calling it clean and simple and said he believed it did a decent job. In the brand’s favour, he pointed out, is the fact that its community is likely to come to the rescue. “Capitec is one of the few brands where consumers come to the brand’s defence.”

While the commercial does not stand out, said Mtati, it works given the brand’s no-frills approach.

A commercial for credit score advisory ClearScore did not fare as well with critics. “It’s so badly done that it’s actually interesting and weirdly compelling,” said Luckin, adding, however, that she had no wish to ever see the commercial again. “This doesn’t feel like a credible brand with any kind of gravitas,” she said.

A commercial for FNB that discussed saving was better received. “This feels like an authentic FNB ad with the accompanying compelling human message,” said Mtati.

Another commercial that received positive feedback was Nedbank’s Ke Yona team sponsorship ad. Sponsorship ads, said Meso, are not required to communicate myriad offerings, which allows the time for a good narrative and story. He said the commercial resonated with him.

An Outvest commercial received a mixed response, with critics arguing it included too many conflicting messages. Druion disagreed, saying the commercial could not have been clearer and that it successfully advertised an unknown brand with a compelling proposition. He conceded, however, that the camera work was distracting.

Luckin criticised the joke at the end of the commercial, claiming it was a little cringe-worthy. Mtati said the brand needed to establish better credibility before asking consumers to invest with it over a 20-year period.

A Retail Capital commercial was panned, with the panellists calling it a bland montage that included too many platitudes, lacking storytelling and failing to make enough of an offer to attend a course at London School of Business.

A Standard Bank sponsorship ad built on the bank’s longstanding and consistent narrative around cricket was a significant asset, said Luckin.

The big take-out

Financial services advertising is due to be disrupted by a number of new entrants to the market.

The final ad of the day was for TymeBank. Despite not coming across like a typical bank ad, it was a successful montage that clearly illustrated who the bank’s target market is, agreed the panel. Druion said he found it endearing how TymeBank was reframing how it sees customers and in the process providing the brand with humanity. Mtati agreed with this assessment. “I love how it is not coming straight out and saying it is a bank but rather that it is there for its customers,” he said, adding that it was an appropriate ad given the fact that TymeBank is not an ordinary bank but rather a digital banking experience.

All in all, this month’s AdForum provided a unique insight into what banking sector commercials could be doing better.

For key insights on adspend and trends in financial services advertising, please download research by Ornico here

The next Financial Mail AdForum in association with Ornico will focus on telecoms and broadband advertising for the internet and will take place on May 31. For more information contact Jade Fleishman. Book tickets here