Is It Okay to Make Money Funny?

By Katie Meyers

When is the last time you saw a bank ad that made you laugh out loud? Chances are, you have to search your memory pretty hard—and you still might not come up with anything. Do banking ads have to be so solemn, even as other industries are harnessing the power of humor?

Banking is known to be a very serious industry, and for good reason. Banks are responsible for keeping money safe and ensuring that it is available to lend and borrow. As a banker, I understand the need to keep banking disciplined and compliant with all the relevant regulations. But that does not need to halt our creatively.

In addition to regulations and compliance, banks need to be mindful of the fact that money can trigger a variety of emotions. For some people, talking about money can be a negative, worrisome, even frightening experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Adding humor to marketing efforts can help create a positive feeling that may reassure consumers, making them feel understood and supported by their banks. Plus, viewers are more likely to remember an ad and talk about it with their friends and family if it’s something that made them laugh. Allowing the customer to lighten up and laugh does not cost the banking industry its integrity. Instead, it creates a memorable connection between the consumer and the brand. As bankers, maybe we can change the prevailing attitudes surrounding money. After all, whether a person has a lot of money or a just little, money is something that we all have in common.

Here are a few video ads that financial services have used to quickly capture audiences and engage viewers with their humor.

Geico’s latest: a barbershop quartet takes on a basketball team  

Despite the insurance industry’s reputation for being a staid (if not to say dull) field, Geico has staked its reputation on a long series of strange, irreverent ads that always aim straight for the funny bone. From the iconic talking lizard to the weirdly sophisticated cavemen to people in crazy situations cheerfully “looking on the bright side” because they saved on insurance, Geico swings for the fences in every direction. While not every ad is a hit, many have gone viral, yielding tens of millions of views on Youtube alone. One of the more recent ads portrays a basketball team playing against a barbershop quartet.

Note that nothing in the ad has much to do with auto insurance. But that may be the point. Although car accidents are terrifying and insurance forms are boring, Geico hints toward the idea that its processes are so easy that consumers can afford to be silly.

The State Farm helium fender bender

In this 30-second clip, a helium truck overturns, and both a fender bender and amusement follow. Luckily, State Farm is there to help make things right and find the bright side of a bizarre accident. High-pitched helium voices will always be funny. And as the ad shows, a headache-inducing word like “fender bender” can become an amusing term—and even a pop culture catchphrase.

Our office was buzzing with giggles over this commercial and the ‘fender bender’ catchphrase.

TD Bank’s “unexpectedly human” campaign

In TD’s Bank “dancer” commercial, a branch manager is seen dancing after hours to the 1992 dance classic “Rhythm Is a Dancer.” It’s hard for anyone to resist bobbing their head to the tune, and just like that, the viewer is engaged. After a few impressive dance moves, the manager hears a knock on the door and springs back to ‘manager mode’ to assist the after-hours customer.

The ad is relatable on many levels to a variety of demographics. From a banker who understands the atmosphere of working at a branch, to the viewer at home who enjoys dancing around the house, it’s easy to feel the sincerity of this video. Ultimately, it illustrates that TD bankers are human, just like you and me.

Synovus Bank’s horse is just a horse

A bank commercial doesn’t need to come from a giant national institution to be funny, engaging and very well made. Synovus Bank is a $32 billion regional institution based in Columbus, Ga., that bought local airtime during the 2017 Super Bowl for one of its ads. It was a risky move, going head-to-head with some of the biggest commercials of the year. But Synovus’s ad, which stars a real-life rancher and Synovus customer—and his real-life Clydesdale horse—is not only funny, but also touchingly authentic.

The video won the best-in-show prize for the 2017 ABA Bank Marketing Video Awards and continues to set the bar for what a bank ad could be.

The examples above show just a few of the ways the financial services industry is introducing humor into its marketing efforts. Considering adding humor to your marketing strategy? Keep an open mind and don’t silo your creatively just because you’re marketing financial services.

Katie Meyers is internal communications coordinator and brand champion at Manasquan Bank, Wall, NJ.