The outdoor ad middle finger

17 Feb

Royal Bank has a transit shelter ad across the street from an HSBC branch by our office. Is this strategic? I don’t think so, the timing is wrong. Either you’re talking to someone who’s already committed to making the trip to HSBC and is steps away from walking into their branch, or when they’re just walking out of the branch and have no need for banking services. The ad wasn’t even for a better rate than HSBC on something, it was soft-selling RBC’s service line-up.

Ad placement like this is just a middle-finger from one brand to its competitor. Worse, this kind of gesture doesn’t even suit Royal Bank’s brand. (Unlike back in my hometown where one rock station bought a billboard outside the competing rock station’s head office – that fit perfectly with their irreverent brand.)

Why not complement rather than compete? Put an outdoor ad for an insurance company outside a car lot or realtor’s office. Or an ad for hearing aids outside an eyeglasses store. Or an ad for a pet store beside an off-leash park. I’m sure you’ll see a lot more response when you’re being useful instead of childish.

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7 Responses to “The outdoor ad middle finger”

  1. dougbrowncreative February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    I can just see the ad agency, the media buyer and the client doing high-fives over this one. It’s not really a victory when it doesn’t support your brand positioning though. Good one Shane.

  2. Scott Elliott February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    This reminds me of the giant billboard ads for CTV programming across the street from the CBC buildings in downtown Toronto.

  3. GV February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    All’s fair in love and war.

    I don’t deal with banks, per say, but let them shoot it out, since BC Credit Unions (plug for them) insure you money for 100%, where as banks will only insure your first $100,00.00 worth.

  4. sgoth February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I mean, if you’re going to pull a stunt like this, at least have unique creative with an offer compelling enough to get people to immediately go to you instead of the competition. “Mention the secret word ‘watermelon’ and we’ll give you a free widget at our location just half a block away” kind of thing.

    GV, the “all’s fair” attitude is what keeps the outdoor companies’ pockets lined, eh?

    Of course I just went to get a picture of the ad and it’s down now. In fairness, there is an RBC branch 2 blocks down from where the ad was, so the placement could have been meant more to support their branch than sling mud at HSBC, but still….

  5. Michael Tension February 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Wow shane, not your usual cynical post. Feeling alright?

  6. Susan Low February 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    I think there’s two things possibly going on here:

    First, RBC’s ad buying agency may have just picked locations within X blocks of their branch without looking into every business within eyeshot of the ad location. That’s the “lazy” explanation for this.

    Going deeper, it could be that the ad buying agency wants to capitalize on a general awareness of money, banking, etc. and THINKS they are offering something about their brand in their ad creative that the prospective customer will prefer over the HSBC brand. They may be using the proximity to present themselves as an alternative. As far as that goes, I say all is fair in war and advertising. I don’t think for a second that HSBC wouldn’t do the “same right back atcha” if they wanted to make a point.

  7. Shane February 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Susan.

    Yes it is a busy time for banking (RRSP season) and I can understand RBC wanting to be self-promoting during this peak period. As I said in the original post, it’s a question of timing. It’s one thing for RBC to run a TV spot talking about their perceived strengths over their competitors aimed at getting people to think about switching to RBC. It’s another thing to target an impression for when someone is just about to do business with the competition – I think it’s too late in the decision process and too inconvenient for the person to consider switching. If we were talking about two brands of pickles at the grocery store and one offered a coupon on a shelf talker to get people to simply reach one aisle down from their usual choice, it would be a different story.

    But in the end, I think RBC was just choosing locations close to their branch and the proximity to HSBC was just a coincidence.

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