Have you seen the series of TV commercials in which an adult uses “fine print” to tease a child? In one, one girl is given a toy pony and then watches as a playmate is given a real pony; in another, a boy is allowed to play with a cool toy airplane for a few seconds, only to have it abruptly taken away and replaced by a sorry cardboard cut-out. These acts of meanness are supposed to be metaphors for how financial services companies use “fine print” to abuse their consumers. Clever, huh?
If you have seen these spots, do you remember who the advertiser is? I highly doubt it. The answer is Ally, which on its website bills itself as “a new bank built on the foundation of GMAC Financial Services.” When I read this, I had a true LOL moment, having used this blog on numerous occasions to criticize General Motors for its automobile and truck advertising. The Ally campaign certainly rivals GM’s vehicle advertising for incompetence. First, it commits advertising’s cardinal sin by failing to register the brand name–an especially flagrant foul given that this is a new company that badly needs to establish consumer awareness. Second, the story line of the commercials has virtually nothing to do with financial services; the viewer comes away with little or no understanding of what benefit is being promised. Third, the teasing of these children is downright mean; although this meanness is ostensibly meant to represent the way Ally’s competitors treat their customers, it seems more likely that Ally will be the brand associated with the meanness. It almost makes you wish for at disclaimer saying, “No child’s emotions were irreparably harmed during the filming of this commercial.”
In short, these commercials don’t effectively convey either the benefit being advertised or the brand doing the advertising, and those few viewers who are somehow able to identify the brand will likely associate it with meanness.
For a company claiming to know that consumers don’t read the fine print, you’d think that Ally would have the good sense to put its benefits–and its name–in the headline, rather than to associate itself with the teasing of innocent children. What consumers would want to ally with a company like that?