True love or love truth?

Published: 28 February 2019

As brands capitalised on the most romantic day of the year, a financial services provider found itself getting hot under the collar, for all the wrong reasons.

Who, or which sort company, says something is an important factor in how the message or information is received.

A. It was a tricky Valentine’s for some this year.
B. Ah, the course of true love never did run smooth. Whose advances were spurned?

A. There was an extra sprinkle of frisson in the shape of some contentious tube adverts from financial services challenger brand, Revolut.
B. I use their card when I go abroad. What happened?

A. They ran an ad that stated, or at least gave the impression, that on Valentine’s Day the previous year thousands of their customers had ordered takeaway meals for one. The ad signed off with: “You OK, hun?”
B. Takeaway for one – the best sort – no need to share. Food aside, I’m guessing they drew some wrath on social media channels. But they would have expected that, surely?

A. You’d think so. But some digging from national newspapers revealed that, aside from causing annoyance, the ad stats were also false. Made up. There was no research or use of bank data. It was a spoof.
B. Oops. No takeaways for one. An oversight?

A. Maybe. Revolut threw a party for 200 customers by way of an apology. The brand said that it should have declared somewhere in the adverts that the numbers were a spoof.
B. That seems about right, but should Revolut have done it at all?

A. Linstock works with many financial services brands. We don’t do advertising campaigns, but a big part of our work is to help clients generate new insights on issues that affect customers and their sectors more broadly.
B. I get it. I get it. Research is conducted, analysis carried out, results published, yada, yada yada.

A. Indeed, but done well, this effort to position clients with genuine new insight can be powerful. However, facts and figures need to be robust, field notes need to be added, reputable research partners used.
B. So that when you speak to the media, they rightfully kick the tyres and know where numbers came from. OK, but why all the hoopla on Revolut?

A. The issue here, I think, is one of latitude of acceptance.
B. Err, you what?

A. What I mean in this instance is that who, or which sort company, says something is an important factor in how the message or information is received.
B. Got it. Clearly, they caused some upset, but advertising is not editorial. Red Bull doesn’t give people wings. There is more leeway in advertising.

A. Yes, but perhaps not in the sector. The issue here is that Revolut is a financial services brand, albeit one challenging the status quo. Strip away the veneer and it’s a bank, fundamentally, and banks rely on being trusted. Trusted with our money. Being truthful is a factor in winning and keeping trust. Damage this and you might damage people’s acceptance of what you say in future.
B. I see. I seem to remember that Spotify ran a not too dissimilar campaign on the back of Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago and it didn’t raise as many eyebrows.

A. Exactly. I’m guessing their numbers were based on real behaviours. But that aside, they look after our playlists not our pay packets.
B. True enough.

Keith Brookbank


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