Ad Nut
May 8, 2018

Amex couldn't target millennials more boringly if it tried

Banks have had to learn that consumers want finance to fit in with their daily lives. But aren't there cleverer ways to show they know this and convey what they're doing to make it possible?

Today, American Express brings to Australia the new global campaign and brand platform it launched in the US last month.

A spin on the 'Don't leave home without them' campaign for traveller's cheques in 1973, the campaign is titled 'Powerful backing: Don’t do business / Don’t live life without it' and is the first time the brand has had a single platform across the US and international markets, targeting both consumers and businesses. It was created by the Dentsu subsidiary Mcgarrybowen, to whom American Express moved its global creative brand work last year. It was delivered to local markets by Ogilvy in partnership with Mindshare.

This looks to Ad Nut’s world-weary eye like a textbook attempt by a heritage financial-services company to woo millennial consumers, who they fear losing to more trendy firms. Millennials aren’t mentioned in the campaign or the press materials around it—it’s fashionable to eschew generational labels these days—but almost every person featured in the campaign videos looks to be aged between 20 and 40.

The brand has developed a new, hand-drawn card logo to make it look more arty and fresh. But there’s little innovative or particularly smart about the message delivered around American Express in these ads, which makes Ad Nut fear they’ll simply get lost as so much more noise, pretty pictures and nice-sounding but empty taglines such as ‘Don’t see the world without it’ and ‘Don’t dream bigger without it’.

Yes, the bank has shown it is aware that today’s young people like nothing more than integrating their work and home lives. They also like experiences: travelling, filming live, DIY, eating out, growing beards and water sports (that pun on ‘board’ relating to both paddle boards and board rooms… we’ll leave that for another day). And all of these activities are covered off in three minute-long videos that will feature across mobile, social, podcasts, TV, cinema and outdoor ads from today.

Ad Nut just can’t help but wish the bank wouldn’t try to conceal what it is actually offering—in essence, a means to pay for things and manage spending—behind a shameless attempt to kickstart an emotional response in its customers by rolling out a montage of all the things they like and might do with their money and time. 

There are some banking benefits highlighted, like ‘mobile payments’, ‘24/7 global support’ and ‘membership rewards points’, but these not only sound completely generic but also ping into the bottom corner of the screen like apologies—sorry to mention this boring banking stuff when you’re so busy having fun!

The one savvy part of the launch is the introduction of a $1 million investment in the Australian music industry, called The American Express Music Backers Program. Music venues, businesses, artists, bands and fans can all apply for a slice of the pot, in the form of venue upgrades or marketing support, industry introductions, studio time or free tickets to gigs.

Ad Nut can tell American Express for free: this backing of the music industry will do more for the brand than any attempt to convince people through a load of trite and meaningless messaging.  

Ad NutAd Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. Check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame.


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