Nov 12 2021
Basis Technologies

5 Compelling Examples of Financial Services Advertisements (And Why They Work)


Financial services is a broad term used to describe the myriad offerings within the finance sector, encompassing everything from insurance and wealth management to payments and digital banking solutions. It is an industry undergoing a monumental transformation amidst the rapid proliferation of powerful technologies in the form of smartphones, mobile apps, risk decisioning analytics, etc. With consumer expectations evolving in parallel, we’re beginning to see signs that traditional institutions with long histories are losing their stranglehold on the market as a new wave of fintech startups emerge looking to disrupt legacy systems. In short, the status quo is changing, and the established order is being upended.

From a marketing perspective, the world of finance is undoubtedly one of the toughest to navigate. Besides the universal regulations that exist across all digital marketing—from GDPR and CCPA laws to the forthcoming deprecation of third-party cookies—finance marketers face their own unique set of hurdles and stringent standards that they need to abide by. Intangible products coupled with tight governance around how products can be communicated to audiences makes it difficult to market aggressively and creatively. Then there’s the glaring problem of distrust. According to a recent report by Morning Consult, 21% of 4,400 respondents said they have lost trust in a bank and stopped using it as a result, while only 39% have a natural trust in finance companies in general.

With all these barriers to success to contend with, financial services providers must act innovatively in their marketing strategies to retain and win new business. Just how is that achieved, though? How do marketers stand out from the crowd when the standardization of financial products has made it harder to distinguish from the competition? How is it possible to avoid the unsustainable race-to-the-bottom scenario where the only differentiator is in ever-lower pricing? How can marketing organizations build a campaign that can’t be easily replicated? How are lasting marketing advantages generated?

Here, we explore five financial services advertisements that answer all these questions emphatically. Together they spotlight easy-to-use payment solutions, online investing, home insurance, mortgage brokers, and personal banking, all with a shared penchant for aesthetically appealing visuals and clever dialogue or punchlines that leave an impression. Standing on their own, they can each be viewed as a mini piece of art rather than a pushy sales pitch.

#1. Get Smooth Again. By Klarna

About the Ad

In the annals of fashion history, it’s fair to say the last two years won’t be remembered fondly. The world collectively underwent a period of indoor loungewear so pervasive and long-lasting that when light was visible at the end of the lockdown tunnel, every style-minded person was confronted with a nagging fear: just how am I going to dress when it’s time to reemerge from the comfort of home?

This is the question that gives life to a recent campaign from Swedish buy now, pay later giant Klarna featuring musician and style savant A$AP Rocky. In a two-and-a-half-minute short film, Rocky dramatizes the tribulations of putting together a look that feels anything other than highly controversial as he surfaces from quarantine in New York. While the rest of the city is seemingly dressed to impress, the rapper stumbles out into the streets with a less-than-polished appearance complete with white slippers and a fuzzy purple robe much to the shock, and amusement, of his neighbors. The realization dawns on Rocky that he needs to rediscover his vibe upon meeting an elderly woman sporting the same garms, and he quickly turns to Klarna to help upgrade his hibernation wardrobe into something a little suaver. The spot ends with a cameo from U.K. rapper Skepta similarly in need of a quickfire makeover, before Klarna encourages viewers to likewise drop their lockdown look and “get smooth again.”

Why it Works

As the world physically resurfaces, there are clear signs that discretionary spending is beginning to recover. A new report by McKinsey indicates that apparel stores are seeing year-over-year losses decrease, and at the same time, U.S. consumers are expressing that they plan to splurge on themselves as pre-pandemic activities continue to return to normal. Klarna’s own research revealed that 63% of consumers globally plan to dress up more frequently than before the pandemic, suggesting that people will be itching to update their closets.

With all this pent-up excitement around shopping, it was perfect timing for Klarna to drop this ad and depict the ease with which their app empowers users to pay for products in installments with zero interest. The campaign also feeds off the growth momentum experienced within the buy now, pay later category that exploded during the pandemic. Overall, consumers will make nearly $100 billion in retail purchases using BNPL programs in 2021, up from $24 billion in 2020, and $20 billion in 2019, as stated in a study by Cornerstone Advisors. Klarna itself has doubled its U.S. customer base since June 2020, reaching a record 20 million customers. In essence, the ad aligns with topical events and current trends as a means to connect with their target audience in a meaningful, relevant way. It doesn’t hurt that global icon and fashion chameleon A$AP Rocky is the face of it, as well.

#2. Let Life Happen. By John Lewis

About the Ad

Scenes from every parent’s worst nightmare: a one-boy tornado ripping through the house with scant regard for, well, anything. That’s what happens in the latest advert for the home insurance division of John Lewis, the undisputed King of adverts. Devised by their long-time London-based creative partner Adam & Eve DDB and directed by Tom Kuntz, the one-minute short documents the trail of destruction wrought by a young boy with a penchant for overly dramatic self-expression. We begin in a ransacked bedroom: clothes strewn all over the floor, jewelry everywhere, nail polish bottles open. The boy pops up, stares into the camera, and embarks upon his rampage during which stilettos go flying, vases get broken, paint is applied to kitchen appliances, and glitter is sprinkled over the dining table, all while his sister and dumbfounded mother look on powerless. It’s a wonderful acting performance underscored by the upbeat notes of Stevie Nicks’ classic Edge of Seventeen. The ad’s message is heart-warming and simple: “Let Life Happen.”

Why it Works

In his seminal 2012 book Seducing the Unconscious: The Psychology of Emotional Influence, author Robert Heath identified that the most effective ads rely on low attention, emotional processing. In simple terms, the less an advertiser claims, the more likely audiences are to be influenced by them. This John Lewis ad epitomizes that premise. With nothing being obviously sold to us, we let our guard down and allow ourselves to get swept away by the boy’s onslaught and the impactful music. It is a clever piece of art that injects joy, freedom, and humor into what can be considered a somewhat unexciting subject: home insurance. As is their trademark, John Lewis shies away from a product focus and instead looks to build an emotional connection between their target audience and their brand story.

#3. You Can Money. By Marcus By Goldman Sachs

About the Ad

Goldman Sachs was primarily known as a white-shoe investment bank chiefly serving corporate clients until the introduction of the Marcus Consumer Banking Division back in 2016. Now the company is in the midst of rolling out its largest campaign for Marcus with a series of short 30-second ads that iterate on the bank’s “You Can Money” tagline. The spots are fronted by Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actress Rosamund Pike who plays the new fictional Marcus spokesperson “M”—short for Money, no relation to James Bond’s superior at the Secret Intelligence Service. Together the ads position Marcus as a one-stop consumer banking platform tailored to users’ spending, saving, and investment needs while simultaneously poking fun at other bank privileges such as free pens, low annual percentage returns, or, as in the case showcased above, complimentary coffee “that tastes like it was brewed by a bank—because it was.”

Why it Works

This ad is very much about highlighting the old way versus the new way. Brands that showcase how their product or service can fix a broken or antiquated system can be a powerful technique to get their message across. Marcus leans on this concept by ridiculing their competitors’ existing interpretation of competitive advantages—the examples of free pens and coffee are both literal but also metaphorical in that they satirize the way some banks have an inherent misunderstanding of what disruption means and what modern consumers actually want. The creative leverages tongue-in-cheek language to speak to their target audience in a way that’s intelligent and digestible, with a focus on humor to help break through the noise.

#4. Certain Is Better. By Rocket Mortgage

About the Ad

When it comes to the issues of home buying and refinancing, the phrase “pretty sure” just isn’t quite sure enough. Enter America’s largest mortgage lender Rocket Mortgage, who are here to help us understand the vast chasm between “pretty sure” and “certain” with a little help from superstar actor and comedian Tracy Morgan. In their latest commercial, which first aired during Super Bowl LV, a family of four confidently claim they are “pretty sure” they can afford the house they are touring before being stopped in their tracks by a bath-lounging, strawberry-eating Morgan who warns them against betting on “pretty sure.” He then leads them through a series of uncertainty-filled, high-stakes scenarios to prove that “pretty sure” is never the way to go—particularly if that involves eating wild mushrooms, fighting former professional wrestler David Bautista, or driving over an open drawbridge. The ad closes by cutting back to the scene in the house where they acknowledge the merits of Morgan’s argument and promptly agree they should use Rocket Mortgage to be “certain” they can afford the home they want. Clever.

Why it Works

The era of COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way people view their homes. After lengthy periods of not just living, but also working, exercising, and studying at home, the pandemic has brought new meaning and significance to the place where we live. This ad taps into that sentiment and highlights the importance of home while drawing awareness to the key role that local mortgage brokers play in helping Americans realize their dream of homeownership. With Morgan at the helm supported by other celebrity cameos, Rocket Mortgage nails the cautious tone of the brand and product but still offers viewers something genuinely funny to watch—a winning combination.

#5. Opportunity Doesn't Do Borders. By HSBC UK

About the Ad

With experts proclaiming the worst of the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, there is a prevailing sense globally that all people want to do now is look to a better future as a way to move forward. It is a mood echoed in the newest ad by HSBC UK that brilliantly highlights how physical, attitudinal, and cultural borders can act as major barriers to opportunity. Created by Wunderman Thompson and directed by James Rouse, the one-minute spot is the successor to the bank’s successful yet controversial We Are Not An Island campaign that aired in 2017, one that many commentators felt was a clear reference to Brexit. Much-loved British comedian Richard Ayoade starred in that provocative ad, and he returns here to weave viewers through a collection of scenarios designed to underline that while some borders can be useful, it’s not always the case. There are references to racial divides, gender inequality, political diversities, and the hurdles we face within ourselves. It’s a powerful and transcendent ad that ultimately reflects a nation’s desire for change.

Why it Works

When asked about the idea behind this campaign, HSBC UK’s Chief Marketing Officer Becky Moffat answered with this: “The bank's role is to help our customers navigate the new different we are all experiencing. What we wanted was to build on what we've achieved with We Are Not An Island—brand consideration and brand power—but do it differently, and in a way that resonates both with our audience and our purpose.” It’s certainly mission accomplished for Becky and the creative team on that front. This ad perfectly encapsulates the UK’s current feeling around borders blocking opportunity and smoothly highlights that the bank isn’t too big to care, but rather it’s large enough to make a difference and level the playing field.

Wrapping Up

What these ads show is that while the financial services ecosystem itself can be complex, creativity doesn’t always have to take a back seat during the development of campaigns. Marketers in this sector are often challenged with promoting a product or end benefit that is abstract in nature, so being innovative, relatable, credible, and easy-to-understand is imperative. “Get smooth again.” “Let life happen.” “You can money.” “Certain is better.” “Opportunity doesn’t do borders.” Five wonderfully simple taglines devoid of any technical jargon that really get to the heart of the respective brand’s identity. By following these principles, finance marketers will be empowered to outpace the competition in whatever branch of financial services their brand belongs to.


As important as it is to craft a great ad, that means nothing if you’re not getting it in front of the right people at the right time. If you’re looking for support when it comes to targeting, get in touch and have a conversation with our digital media experts.