From fusty to frivolous: DraftFCB gives National Bank a Dr Seuss-inspired refresh

Youtube Video DraftFCB snatched the National Bank account off Clemenger BBDO in October last year and since then, industry chinstrokers have been eagerly awaiting the fruits of the new relationship. Well, the new, zany, big budget, weirdly patriotic TVC epic has finally hit the shelves and it’s an interesting—and entertaining—evolution to a banking brand that’s long been seen as a fairly serious one.

DraftFCB’s executive creative director James Mok admits this “fruity little number” has been a long time coming. But there’s a lot at stake here, so the delay is understandable. Still, it was a bit slower than he was expecting.

“I take my hat off to them. I think they’ve been fairly brave with this,” he says.

The words in the ad are lifted directly from Dr Seuss’s ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ short prose, “a wonderful piece of story telling and fantastic way to express what The National Bank has always stood for – helping people achieve”. But instead of talking about having ‘done it’, this campaign celebrates the ‘doing’, he says.

Mok says it worked through Seuss Enterprises for permission to use the words. And while he wouldn’t divulge how much it cost for the license (neither would he be drawn on how much it cost to relicense the black horse and green shield from its owners Lloyds), he thought it was actually quite good value compared to, for example, licensing songs.

“They’re very protective of the property. Those words are going to be used for that brand communciation and that’s as far as it goes,” he says. Of course, it certainly wouldn’t be cheap, and he admits it is great to be able to work with a client that can afford such luxuries.

Adding to the bill, what some referred to as ‘the mother of all shoots’ with Robber’s Dog was conducted over 12-14 days, largely in the South Island in the middle of winter. So there were obvious environmental factors to contend with. It’s certainly a big, expensive looking creation, but Mok says this spot is the first of many executions.

Achievement is a well trodden path for the bank, so Mok says the refresh was about positioning achievement in a different, slightly more accessible way.

“The danger was that if we trotted the same thing out again it might be seen as a bit stale,” he says, possibly smirking at the use of trotted.

He says there’s no way Draft or National Bank were going to throw out the core brand assets it had built up over the years, so ye olde black horse, which Mok says first came on the National Bank scene in 1993, is back for another gallop, although it’s been used fairly sparingly this time. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has also returned.

The move towards fun and frivolity in financial comms may seem out of step with what has happened in recent years. But Mok thinks it’s a natural evolution as banks and other brands start figuring out that they need to stop being “cold and patriarchal”.

Mok says the campaign also makes use of DraftFCB’s cultural study with Practica, where it endeavoured to find out what characterised New Zealanders, what kind of cultural cues people respond to in a commercial medium and “what makes us feel part of New Zealand” (never mind that it’s an Aussie owned banked).

Turns out it can be broken down into seven categories, the most important of which is our connection to the land, something that Draft has tapped into with the use of a host of classic Kiwi landcapes.

“I’m really biased, of course, but it has a really good feeling to it.”

As per, there’s also a microsite for your viewing delectation. And it’s fairly Seuss-esque too.

Client: The National Bank
Creative Team: Matt Simpkins, Steve McCabe, Kelly Lovelock
Agency Producer: Pip Mayne
Production Co: Robbers Dog
Director: Gaysorn Thavat
Producer: Mark Foster
Music: Nylon
Post Production: Blockhead

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