Bad advice can come from anyone. Whether you’re being told to get a haircut in a strange and out of style fashion, carrying a couch up a narrow fire-escape or getting unsolicited investment tips from dubious sources, chances are that at some point, you either have, or will be given bad advice.
Not receiving bad advice becomes especially important when dealing with a sensitive subject like banking. But according to Scotiabank, 54% of Canadians have admitted to receiving bad financial advice at least one. That’s why Rethink and Scotiabank teamed up; parodying an onslaught of poor ideas and information while telling the world that Scotiabank wants to offer personalised, good advice.
Rethink associate creative directors Brendan Scullion and Max Bingham, together with Scotiabank vice president of marketing - Canadian banking John Rocco, speak to LBB’s Josh Neufeldt about how they brought this campaign to life.
LBB> What were your main aims and ambitions with this project?
John> To creatively break through and build an emotional connection with our customers.
LBB> What were some initial creative ideas for this campaign?
John> We saw three initial creative territories from Rethink and put them all into creative testing. Each idea came differently, pulling on levers like humour. One idea was about how hard it is to talk about money, another was a playful spot about cookie-cutter advice. The idea that won in research was an earlier version of the spot we produced, about the pervasiveness of ‘Bad Advice’. This spot conveyed the empathy we carry as a brand but combined that empathy with creativity and subtle humour to create a stand-out ad that we were sure would break through for us.
LBB> How did you come up with the idea of using the bad advice theme? What was your inspiration and what research informed it?
Brendan & Max> The idea of bad advice was staring us right in the face, unfortunately. Influencers, pundits, acquaintances, even family - everywhere you look, it seems there are people who are happy to tell you how to live your life. But there are very few who take the time to understand that life, first.
We figured that if we felt this way, others might too. So, we asked around (peers, focus groups, etc.) and the answer was clear: Canadians are being bombarded by bad advice.
LBB> What does the relationship between Rethink and Scotiabank look like? What was the brief like, and is a campaign like this quite collaborative?
Brendan & Max> A spot like this would be impossible without a trusting and confident client. They are just SO many details with ‘bog down’ potential - and the entire Scotiabank brand team had great instincts for which ones called for collaboration and which ones to trust us with.
John> We have been on a journey to own advice within the Canadian financial landscape for two years, since the launch of our ‘Advice+’ program. The category in Canada is cluttered with all of the big banks talking about the same financial products and services. None of the banks were truly owning advice or standing out as a customer champion. Also, no one was breaking through creatively and producing outstanding work. This became our white space.
We worked collaboratively with Rethink on the brand strategy, to articulate who we are as a brand and how we want to show up for our customers. The result of that exercise was our driving insight - ‘the right perspective delivers the confidence to enjoy a life well-lived’ - and our role as a bank was to provide a perspective that would help our customers see and believe in their potential.
The final ‘a-ha’ moment came when Rethink gave us a strategic exercise and challenged us to face the facts. To be a human-centric bank, which is what we very much wanted to be, we had to find a way to be less about banks and banking and more about life and living. This became an ethos for us, and combined with our insight and our role as a bank, became our creative brief.
LBB> What was the production process like?
Brendan & Max> It was like watching showtime Lakers basketball. The talent at Scouts Honour, Nimiopere and Vapor were fluid and fast and crushed it every step of the way.
John> The process was really collaborative where it needed to be but we also tried to give Rethink and [director] Mark Zibert’s team the space they needed to be creative and work their magic. There was a tremendous amount of trust through the process which allowed everyone to do their best work.
LBB> What was Mark like to work with on this campaign? Why was he the right director to bring this to life?
Brendan & Max> The writing process was an exhaustive exercise of every example of bad advice we could come up with. By the time we were done there were so many that we thought “Yikes! We’ll have to talk to Mark about what we can actually capture.”
Mark’s response was to add a few more of his own. He captured them all - and every single one was beautifully crafted.
We knew from his treatment that he was the person to balance the scope and scale with the humanity and relatability that this spot needed - and he proved it every step of the way.
LBB> One particularly memorable shot is of the two guys on the fire escape struggling to get the couch upstairs, before eventually dropping it. What was the process of achieving that shot like?
Brendan & Max> Three cameras, a few wires, and the ability to resist the urge to scream “PIVOT” got us that couch shot.
LBB> The actors in this ad really do a good job giving and receiving unsolicited and poor advice. What was casting like? And how did you work with the director during this process?
Brendan & Max> With so many roles to fill, casting had to be flexible. People would come in for one role, and leave with another. Mark was great at pushing each actor to reveal which character was right for them - throwing them wild lines, expressions to try, personalities to take on, etc.
LBB> Do you personally have a favourite sequence from the ad?
Brendan> All of them?
Max> The NFT-advocate is the front-runner for me. No shade to the actual product/NFTs - but I can’t count the number of times I’ve been cornered by someone telling me I “have to” get into the new thing.
John> All of them.
But if I had to choose one, it would be the pool guy. Full transparency – he made us feel uncomfortable. We were unsure about his role in casting, and even less sure when it came time to approve the wardrobe. He was one of the characters that was outside what we might normally show in a traditional bank ad. He floated around in the pool for several hours, delivering wild lines that ranged from hilarious to profane as Mark worked with him to get the right delivery and we were not entirely sure he was going to be an appropriate inclusion in the spot. In the end, he is one of our favourite characters and the agency and Mark were bang on in their vision. Looking back, I’m glad we gave them the benefit of the doubt; again – trust!
LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?
John> Culturally, producing a bank ad that is less about banks and banking and more about life and living is a challenge. While we all knew this was the right move in our gut, we had to back up our recommendation with data and research.
LBB> What has the response to the campaign been like?
Brendan & Max> The response has been great. Everyday Canadians actually feel heard by (and enjoy watching) a spot for a financial institution. That’s no small feat.
John> So far, the response has been really positive. Internally, our staff really love it and we are getting great early feedback that Canadians at large are finding it entertaining; that it is breaking through and standing out.
LBB> What is the worst piece of unsolicited advice you’ve ever received?
Brendan & Max> A guy in a pool told me to quit my job.
John> I have received a lot of advice that I am glad I did not take. Usually, it involves real estate and investment tips promising returns beyond my wildest dreams. In the end I follow the simple rule – if I don’t understand the advice – I let it slide.
LBB> Is there anything you’d like to add?
Brendan & Max> This is just a taste of what’s to come from the relationship between Scotiabank and Rethink.
John> Definitely. This was our first time working with Mark as the director and it was an incredible experience watching him bring this spot to life. This was a very complicated shoot with a huge cast and multiple locations, but the level of professionalism he and his team brought to this, in addition to the artistry he is so well known for, was incredible. He understood the problem we were trying to solve and worked with us to create both a beautiful piece of film as well as a very effective piece of advertising. Most impressive was watching him direct and shoot while carrying a very heavy camera, all from a perch on his Segway.