The economic crisis in the EU, and in Greece in particular, has brought immense criticism of banks accused of fuelling the crisis, and getting away with it at the expense of ordinary citizens who suffer the consequences. Many questioned why national Governments saved banks since banks are privately owned businesses registered for profit only. The protests against the current economic system and the monetary institutions were organised by the critical NGO; however, they were not marginal because many feel the same and repeat arguments from these organisations. The UK has not been hit with the crisis to the same extent as other EU countries; however, austerity measures have taken place, with many new austerity measures being regularly announced. In a recent show at BBC, the commentators asked why were banks saved by national Governments, and why they still pay bonuses to their management, while British citizens suffer from austerity measures. Apart from this criticism, banks in the UK have been subject of criticism because some of their policies such as hidden fees, etc.
Given all criticism, and generally negative views of banks in the UK, it seems that certain UK financial institutions are trying to turn towards emotional advertising and creating better relations with British customers. For the example, Lloyds bank is celebrating 250th anniversary this year and they are currently heavily advertising with their new campaign entitled By your side for 250 years. In that, the advertisement pictures UK’s history developing from a peasant country to an industrial power, world wars and changes in the culture, with powerful music in the background (Birdy’s Wings) singing about the rest of our lives implying that the Lloyds bank will be there for its customer throughout their lives. With this, Lloyd’s creative advert pictures history of the UK showing what has happened in the past 250 years while Lloyds was also a UK’s bank.
Shortly before Lloyds, Nationwide started to advertise with a campaign entitled On your side for generations, and the advert shows a story of a boy who misses his father who often has to leave him due to work obligations. When he sees the father is about to leave again and that his scarf is broken, the boy takes all money he has in his money-box, buys wool and sews up the scarf adding the label Best Dad. Later on, when the son grows up and has his own family, his father gives him that scarf back, which he accidentally leaves in the bus. A staff member from the Nationwide fortunately notices desperate attempt of the boy/father to return to the bus to pick up the scarf, and brings the scarf back to the family. The advert is very emotional, and warms up the heart.
However, a major difference is that Nationwide is a building society, i.e. an organisation that is not privately owned with shareholders like banks, but an organisation owned by its members. In other words, it is a concept much more favourably seen due to its lack of profit-orientation and usually ethical policies that follow employee management.
All adverts are clearly trying to appeal to emotions inherent to advertising where there is a trend to appeal to emotions (Fill, 2013) but it seems that Nationwide has gone a step further in an attempt to project itself through the notion of empathy too. If we look at the definition of empathy we will see that at the core of empathy is a notion of wearing someone else’s shoes and understanding how the other person feels (Clark 1997; Coplan 2011; Holmes 2012; Parker 2013). This is clearly present in Nationwide’s advert where the staff member brings back a lost scarf and makes son/father happy for having a scarf that is in the family for two generations returned.
Given the current criticism of the banking system, I am wondering if Lloyds was better off with their campaign emphasizing they approve 80 % of loans and inviting people to come to Lloyds if they want to start their own business. It is a fact that it was Lloyds that saved other UK banks during the crisis, but given the current mass criticism of the banking system how many people actually know that? If they do know, do they care given all scandals surrounding the banking system in the UK and worldwide?
Thank you for reading. I am happy to hear other views.
Clark, C. (1997). Misery and Company: Sympathy in Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Coplan, A. (2011). Will the real empathy please stand up? A case for a narrow conceptualization. The Southern Journal of Philosophy 49, 40–65.
Holmes, P. (2012) Think tank live: Christof Ehrhart stresses need for empathy. In: The Holmes Report. Available at:
Fill, C. (2013). Marketing Communications. London: Pearson.
Parker, D. (2013). Is empathy the most important skill in PR? Available at:
http://www.prmoment.com/1568/is-empathy-the-most-important-skill-in-pr.aspx (Accessed 8 July 2015).