Can advertising restore confidence in banks?

July 22, 2009

1Without getting tangled up in the issue of who’s to blame for the economic crisis, one thing for certain is that the reputations of banks and other financial institutions have taken a battering.

The question is, what can they do to restore the faith of consumers? If recent activity in the Middle East is anything to go by, banks are refocusing on their marketing plans.

Several banks across the region have either launched new campaigns or they are at various stages of pitching their advertising and media briefs.

Trimming budgets and seeking better value for money  are obvious motivations for holding pitches at the current period, but the need to re-establish a connection with the public, win their confidence and ultimately improve profitability must also be key concerns.

Alexis de Beauregard, chief marketing officer for the Gulf operations of insurance giant AXA, says certain perceptions need to be overturned. In the past year, the company has changed its ad agency from independent orangerie to Publicis Groupe and more recently shifted its media brief from OMD to Havas’ MPG.

In the latest edition of Campaign, he says: “We’re taking the lead in trying to change the perception of the industry and restore faith with our customers but it’s very difficult. It’s a lot quicker to destroy your brand rather than create it. It’s not just local companies, it’s international companies here. They took a lot of time building their brands over a number of years and destroyed it in about a year and a half.”

Agencies are effectively being asked to turn the tide. It’s a steep challenge.Is the region’s ad industry up to the task? Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank apparently thought not when it turned West and hired Fallon to create the ‘Long live ambition’ campaign (the merits of which have been fiercely debated).

More fundamentally, can any advertising agency realistically drive the widespread change of perception that financial institutions now require?