WTF Citibank Viral ad
Citibank India and their agency set out to start an Online Advertising campaign to recruit Non Resident Indians for Citibank Online Remittance. You will know in a minute why I use words like ‘advertising’ campaign and ‘recruit’
By now, the use of Internet as a demand generation/lead generation vehicle has been quite well entrenched in the financial sector.Many of the banking marketers are savvy affiliate, search and cost per acquisition direct response marketers. Marketing services Agencies for such product categories have also been riding the learning curve when it comes to churning out ads fast, operational set up and even (arguably) campaign optimization techniques to elicit the the best cost per action
Unfortunately, since the whole emphasis has been on “hit hard and get leads” (some people call it “Wham Bam Thank you Ma’m”) tactics, creative uses and examples of generating consumer response or engagement led response marketing have been few and far between.
Click to watch this excruciatingly boring, low production quality and ‘un-forward worthy’ online ad from Citibank. To make matters worse- they actually have a full site dedicated to it. With no promise on what to expect next from the site. With no efforts to make the users come back to the site ( a sequel or comments/openness to receive more feedback or transparent engagement)- it’s really just showing an ad to people – and asking them to forward to a friend or sign in for online remittance- almost as a return favor.
And these are not the only things wrong with the ad. Some more here:
- Does not make me ‘feel’ anything- Does not elicit any emotional connect- The pseudo-nostalgic feelings that the ad attempts to exploit- fall completely flat. Come On- thinking of the Taj Mahal in India is not something that makes people nostalgic. That is a tourist frigging dream at best- not of an average Indian.
- No connect: All NRIs are not settled in America: It does not gel with me at all. I am an NRI settled in Singapore- and it seems to me that citibank is saying- I have this facility only for American Indians- they are the majority of my “TG” – and the rest of you cheap second grade NRIs- can chose some other services- if they want to
- Confused- are you trying to play on emotions or humor (over drama of the mother)? sadly both are missing- if either case was presented strongly, it would have made for a great viral, but it becomes a juvenile attempt at eliciting leads
- Production quality: It makes you go- Woah! What was that? That ad would fail to have responses even in the early 2000s – people now are exposed to more cutting edge messaging- and take high standards for granted- specially if it is an ‘ad’ from a company
- It does not do anything unexpected. Pretty average joe- normal routine stuff.
- It looks pureplay advertising- and that sucks- do this on a banner ad and see the response. (But then you might blame the format rather than the execution)
Now this post might look like lambasting one particular ad or company (I don’t even know the agency)- but basically I’m trying to put things into perspective for other marketing services agencies- there are no straight thumb rules of producing great work with creative intelligence but there sure are some absolute ‘no-nos’ that we as the marketing fraternity have to keep in mind. Not just good for our campaigns, brands, leads and awards but also for the medium.
Many industries- inspite of being demand generation heavy, (specifically travel), have tried to exploit more creative ways to generate leads and interest in their products.
The arguments have been many- including the fact that- In a way, travel products (including the very commoditized ticketing business) are pull and most financial products are ‘push’.
But if that is the case, I would argue the ‘push’ categories need to think of even more creative ways to engage consumers, better ways to harness their own databses (CRM processes) and think more long term. Cookie cutter approaches will only increase your acquisition costs not to mention failing to have a long term association with your brand.
And since the example in this case is India, (and also because people outside could think there is any less cutting edge creative work happening there) I’d like to highlight this creative (similar genre and animated) from India- selling a highly commoditized and extremely competitive- online travel booking product.
I have many more internationally acclaimed examples, but will rely on this creative to make a case in point.
This was done a few years back and something that is from memory- though I am sure more innovative work has been done after this. I have hardly any data on how was this promoted/distributed or exactly what response did this elicit (though I know from industry sources this has been successful and there have been sequels for this- an important criterion for me to judge the success)
This might not be well understood by all- it is in Hindi and plays on a (silly but cute) game that Indian kids play (or used to play- nowadays its all WIIs and PSPs- but perhaps that makes it more funny). A small description:
The game goes like this- one person has to chant the name of a ‘thing’ follwed by “ud” (‘fly’ for Hindi) in fast succession- gesticulating by fingers if the object actually flies (so something like “bird fly”- will make you lift your finger- whereas if you lift a finger on, say, “Cow fly”- then you lose)
The messaging is based on the proposition that anyone can fly (air travel in India has tradionally been out of reach for the common person)- from the milk man to the washerman.
They made an animated creative with a sister playing this game with his toddler brother. So, in effect- even kids know that now everyone can fly- by using the services of this website.
So why do I think this creative is good (as compared to the previous one)? Some reasons:
The age old game in its virtual avatar establishes a connect, gives an unexpected play on a “heard that before” promise, good production quality, the kids and their voices and responses -elicit emotions and humor, clear value propostion- and all of this making people forward more and be receptive to the ad. Of course could have been better- and could have had more engagement and transparency built in by way of comments or seeding across sites (I could not find this creative on YouTube even though I went looking for it)
Enough said- Will have more commentary on ads soon..keep coming.