In a world full of ‘Bad Advice,’ Scotiabank looks to be a beacon of sanity

Who: Scotiabank, with Rethink for strategy and creative, Scouts Honour for production (Mark Zibert directing), The Vanity and Alter Ego for post-production. Media by PHD.

What: A splashy and engaging new brand campaign, “Bad Advice,” promoting its Advice+ suite of products and services. While Rethink worked on last year’s “Hockey for All” program, as well as this year’s “Sleep Advisor” campaign, the agency is describing this as its first major brand work for Scotiabank since winning the business in December of 2020. Rethink partner and creative director Dhaval Bhatt suspects the four-day shoot was among the biggest productions in the agency’s history. “It was herculean, but it was a lot of fun,” he said.

When & Where: A 60-second version of the spot debuted during Sunday’s Oscar telecast (it aired prior to “the slap”) and is being complemented by a 90-second version running online and in cinema, as well as 30- and 15-second cutdowns running on TV. There is also an out-of-home component planned for later this year.

Why: Scotiabank has become focused on creating marketing based on relatable insights and capable of striking a more emotional chord with consumers, said John Rocco, Scotiabank’s vice-president of marketing, Canadian banking. “We’ve been moving away from banks and banking, and products and features, to life and living.”

The goal is to help Scotiabank break through and stand apart in a crowded—and largely undifferentiated—category, and get consumers to perceive it as a reliable source of practical financial advice. “What’s going to be a key differentiator for them is advice that leads with empathy,” said Bhatt. “That’s what the new platform is all about.”

How: The creative approach was inspired by a recent Scotiabank survey which found that 2% of Canadian adults under 35 have used horoscopes to plot their financial course, 81% find the financial world more confusing than they did five years ago, and 54% say they have received bad financial advice at least once.

The ad is a representation of all the bad advice people receive on a daily basis, showing people being besieged with bad information across literally dozens of scenarios—from someone being asked by a stranger in an elevator if they know about NFTs, to a golfer being helped (badly) as he lines up a tee shot, to a tarot card reader, and an audience screaming suggestions at a game show contestant. It ends with one of the spot’s recurring characters finding respite from the clamour in a Scotiabank branch, where he’s greeted by a calm, smiling representative.

“Once we landed on that insight, there was no shortage of things we could talk about,” said Rocco. “We have a number of scenes that reflect the bad advice people can get. I think there’s something in there that everybody can relate to.”

What’s going on with financial services advertising anyway: For decades, financial services advertising tended to be staid and uninteresting, with a heavy emphasis on products and services. “The banking industry overall—and that includes us, because we’ve been really guilty of this in the past—is really good at showing superficial reflections of people’s lives as it pertains to products and offerings,” said Rocco.

But there’s an argument to be made that this spot, along with Wealthsimple’s “Early Adopters” spot poking gentle fun at crypto skeptics, were the two most engaging spots during Sunday’s Oscars telecast (which has traditionally been second only to the Super Bowl as the launch platform spot for high-profile creative).

“To be truly customer focused, it’s not about us, it’s about you and the role that we play within your life,” said Rocco. “We’re very intentional with the work we’re doing to really talk about the customer as opposed to us. We have plenty of opportunity as you move through your journey as a customer or prospective customer [to communicate] what the features and benefits are, what the best products are, what the rates are, but this was really more of a higher-order emotional connection.”

The bank has increasingly come to view creativity as a “differentiator,” he added. “[W]e need to use creativity as a device to break through and create that emotional connection. The industry has been not as bold in the past, and I think you’re starting to see that boldness and hopefully we are at the forefront of that.”

“It’s very clear that they came to Rethink with a very clear mandate—they wanted to do work that isn’t just breakthrough  for the category but is breakthrough period. Good enough for the category has never been the benchmark,” added Bhatt. “We want Scotiabank to be the account that literally every creative at Rethink can’t wait to work on, and we feel we’ve achieved that.”

And we quote: “Our goal is to do create work that when people watch it, their response is ‘I feel seen.’ Everybody gets so much unsolicited bad advice, no matter what age group or income bracket,” said Bhatt. “[But] the best advice comes when you’ve done some listening.”


Chris Powell