Dominic West banker ad for Nationwide banned by ASA

nationwide-dominic-west-ad

A TV, radio and a press ad for Nationwide starring actor Dominic West, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The campaign, which launched in October and November 2023, featured West as the indulgent boss of fictitious finance house A.N.Y. BANK.

Nationwide banker ad

West’s character has an exchange with a banking colleague about the possible closure of the bank’s branch, which they say is unlike the Nationwide.

The exchange was followed by a shot of a Nationwide branch with a voice-over that stated, “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches.” On-screen text stated “Visit Nationwide.co.uk/ourpromise. Valid until 2026.”

A radio version of the ad featured a conversational exchange between the two same characters. One individual said: “Boss, news from Nationwide” to which the other replied, “Ugh what are they doing now?”

The first individual then said, “They’ve just confirmed they’re keeping branches open” and the second individual responded with a laugh before he said, “What nonsense, who needs a branch?”

A voice-over then said, “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches. Nationwide, a good way to bank. To view our branch promise search Nationwide.co.uk/ourpromise.”

The ASA said that it received 282 complaints over the ad, from complainants, including Santander, who understood that Nationwide had recently closed or reduced opening hours at a number of branches, and they challenged whether the ads were misleading.

In its response Nationwide said they were different from other large financial institutions because they were a mutual society that was owned by their members, all of whom had a mortgage, saving or current account with them. They explained that they were committed to maintaining their branch network, and that was different to their competitors.

They also highlighted that their intended target audience for the ad had been their existing current and savings account holders.

They said they had previously launched a Branch Promise in 2019 not to leave a town or city where there wasn’t another Nationwide branch in place and said that they had strengthened that Branch Promise in 2023.

The ads were seen in the context of financial institutions closing their high street branches, and the ASA considered consumers would interpret the ads in relation to that scenario.

“We considered that ad (a), the TV ad, satirised the decision-making process taken by banks in relation to closing their branches, and contrasted that with Nationwide’s approach, through the portrayal of a senior manager at an unknown bank showing indifference to the effect on customers of branches closing.

“We considered that the line “But we’re not Nationwide are we, we’re nothing like them” alongside the statement “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches” was likely to be seen by viewers as suggesting that Nationwide had taken a decision to keep their branches open because of an understanding of the benefits for customers.

“Ad (b), the radio ad, featured a similar exchange between the senior manager and his assistant, and included the line “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches. Nationwide, a good way to bank”.

We considered listeners were also likely to understand from that ad that Nationwide had made a decision to keep their branches open.

And a press ad, referred to as ad (c), contained large headline text stating “Going, going nowhere” and again stated “Unlike the big banks, we’re not closing our branches”.

The ASA said it also considered consumers would understand the ad to be giving the same suggestion about branches remaining open as ads (a) and (b).

“Ads (a) and (c) included qualifications that referred to the fact that the ‘Branch Promise’ would be in place until at least 2026, with both ads including references to Santander as a comparative ‘Big bank’”, the ASA said.

“Whilst the qualifications in ads (a) and (c) included the date from which Nationwide could commence closing branches, we considered that they were likely to be missed because of the way they had been presented.

“We also understood that in the 12 months prior to the ad campaign, Santander had closed fewer branches than Nationwide and at the time the ad was seen Santander had not announced that they would be closing branches in the future, based on the information presented on the webpages linked to in the ads.

“Therefore, whilst we considered the qualifications would be likely to be missed, for consumers who had seen them, the qualifications would be likely to mislead consumers specifically in relation to the comparison with Santander.

“Ad (b) included no such qualification and therefore it would not be clear from that ad that the Branch Promise was valid until 2026. Had the timeframe been made clearer in the ads, we considered that would likely have overridden the impression that the Branch Promise related to the longer term.

“We acknowledged that over a ten-year period, in comparison to other financial institutions, Nationwide had closed the smallest percentage of any financial institution’s estate.

“However, we noted that they had nevertheless closed 20% of their estate, which equated to 152 branches, and we considered that was a significant number that had been permanently closed.

“We also understood that since Nationwide had launched their original Branch Promise, in the 18 months since July 2022, they had permanently closed 20 branches. Of those 20, 14 had been closed in the 12 months preceding the campaign, with two of them having been closed in 2023.

“As above, we understood that Nationwide’s Branch Promise was only valid until 2026, at which time Nationwide could begin to close branches permanently. We considered those factors relating to previous, recent branch closures and the effect on future branches in the long term were likely to be significant to consumers when making decisions about whether to choose Nationwide, in the context of the claims made in the ads that Nationwide were not closing their branches.

“Because we considered that consumers would understand from the ads that Nationwide would not be closing branches in the long-term future and that they had not recently closed branches, we concluded that the ads were misleading.”

As a result the ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

“We told Nationwide Building Society not to mislead in relation to the closure of their branches”, it said.