KOHO provides tours of the ‘Museum of BS’ for new campaign

Who: KOHO, with creative by Ogilvy (its first campaign since winning the business in January), production by Soft Citizen (the Perlorian Brothers directing). Media bought in-house.

What: “The Museum of BS,” a brand campaign poking “gentle fun” at some of the old-school practices of traditional banking. BS stands for “banking stuff,” although it is inspired by what you were thinking (see below).

When & Where: The campaign is live now running for six week across online and social video, complemented by display ads. KOHO avoided traditional media in part because its consumers are online, but also because the ROI for a TV buy, for example, doesn’t warrant the investment, said CMO Alexandru Otrezov.

“What we want to do is really stretch the dollars we have as much as possible, and drive more digital awareness,” he said. “We are an app-first institution, so it’s pretty tough to get a person from TV to the app store to the install. There’s a lot of friction there, so we try to minimize that.”

Why: As a disruptor brand in the financial space, KOHO wants to emphasize its positioning as an innovative, tech-led, virtual bank that challenges many of the accepted practices of the current banking system.

The goal is both awareness and performance, said Otrezov. While the goal is to drive sign-ups, the campaign is also about connecting with those who might be willing to learn more about a challenger brand—people who are either unhappy with the old system, or hadn’t even thought to question some of the traditional system’s basic structures.

“We want to see how much can we come in and educate consumers around the space,” said Otrezov. “Educate consumers around making the right decisions… and asking the tough questions. Why are you paying fees for the right to bank, for example.”

A lot of people have simply never questioned the system, or the big banks that do best within it, he said. “They just go with the bank their parents had, and they stick with it for the rest of their lives.” KOHO wants to get people thinking that the old system can be replaced by something newer and better.

How: The campaign is built around a video ad introducing viewers to the Museum of BS, with a guide providing a deadpan explanation of banking “artifacts”—such as a pen on a chain, bank furniture and line dividers—to make a larger point about the system being out of date. “This was your bank’s way of saying nothing is for free, and you look like a pen thief,” says the guide explaining the pen on a chain.

The ads close by promoting KOHO’s spending and savings account with no bank fees, instant cash back, 1.2% interest, “and no BS.”

Early campaign ideas felt too much like big bank work, or went too far the other way and tried too hard to be edgy, said Otrezov. “Nothing was close to that middle ground of ‘We can be edgy, funny and educational in one,'” he said.

We are banking without the bullshit, Otrezov repeatedly told the agency. “I just kept using ‘bullshit’ in meetings, and finally Ogilvy came back with this cool idea: ‘We love the no bullshit, no BS, but we’re gonna spin it to no bank stuff.'”

The ads contain other subtle jabs at banks and aspects of the traditional system that irritate many people, including “The Hall of Hidden Fees” and the “Exhibition of Predatory Loans,” but the message is clear and unmistakable right from the start, said Otrezov. “That opening scene of the Museum of BS just tells you exactly that the current antiquated Canadian banking space, it belongs in a museum.”

David Brown