DBS 'mini-series' continues bankers-with-heart theme

Banker McDreamy wants you to know that he cares for you. But is the Sparks series working for DBS?

HONG KONG - The saga of the DBS bankers continues in the latest installment of DBS's Sparks mini series. We investigate the plotlines and ask how the work is paying off for the bank.

In the newest episodes, the plot is thickening—what with an unwed mother, the comeback of an old flame and a Ponzi scheme thrown into the mix.

In episode 4, released a month ago, promising young banker Jasper, played by actor James Yang, is asked by his ex-girlfriend Jane to help her invest a huge sum of money in a P2P lending platform. Jasper hasn't really gotten over Jane, it seems; his longing looks show he still carries a torch for Jane, who appears to be heavily pregnant but unwed (the large sum of money is apparently some sort of payoff).

His feelings might have impaired his judgement, warns co-worker cum client relationship manager cum current squeeze Claire (who says office romance is not complicated?), as she smells something fishy from the too-good-to-be true deal. Jasper thinks she's just jealous, but his group of resourceful colleagues saves the day before the college fund for Jane's unborn daughter goes into the pockets of the suave Ponzi proprietor, played by veteran Chinese-American actor Michael Wong.

Glendy Chu, executive director, group strategic marketing and communications head of DBS Bank (Hong Kong), said the plot for the mini-series was inspired by real events involving DBS clients. Research teams spoke to bankers in the bank's key Asian markets in search of storylines. The episode on the Ponzi scheme in particular was based on a client who nearly invested in a P2P lending company that was later outed as a Ponzi scheme.

"Banks have traditionally been viewed as a formal and conservative institution," Chu said. "Through the series, we want to portray that banking can be a joyful experience that helps customers to achieve their goals."

She added that the new releases were back by popular demand. The first three episodes, released earlier this year, garnered more than 12 million views and over 500,000 engagements. The series, shot on location Hong Kong, was directed by David Tsui. The campaign also runs a Watch & Win contest for viewers, offering prizes worth up to HK$10,000. 

"The shift toward digital branding and marketing was to suit customers' changing media-consumption habits," Chu said. She explained that the Singapore-based regional bank will go digital for more than 50 percent of its financial services marketing strategy in the near future. 

Episode 5 was released two weeks ago, though with a less dramatic plot focused on a retiree couple coping with Alzheimer's disease.

Campaign Asia-Pacific's comments: Hollywood has a history of casting bankers in a bad light. Perhaps the positive spin of Sparks could show their humane side, at least for retail bankers. This was a fairly daring move in a sector usually dominated by safe, indistinguishable marketing. More importantly, it seems to be working.

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