Wrapped in Red tape doesn’t mean boring.

Natalie Welch
Natalie Welch

We’ve been there. The back and forth with compliance, trying to fit two paragraphs of Ofcom required terms and conditions in the footer of an email and the short turnaround of a full suite of changes. 

When you’re wrapped with the red tape of a regulatory body, being innovative with your marketing can seem, quite frankly, a bit of a ball ache. Today, we’re going to try and reinject some creativity back into your comms.

Meerkats & Moustaches: Insurance

Think of some of the catchiest adverts from the past two decades, and perhaps a certain Alexsandr the Meerkat may pop to mind? Or ‘that’ opera singing man with a moustache?

Both of these adverts are iconic and yet both come from insurance companies that are completely covered in legislative nightmares. 

The red tape of legislation does not mean boredom. Instead, it is a breeding pit for creativity, encouraging marketers and advertisers alike to think outside the box and push boundaries. 

Alexsandr the meerkat, probably one of the most profitable and well-recognised adverts of current times, had more pre-orders on his autobiography than the life stories of Tony Blair, Cheryl, Russell Brand or Dannii Minogue. Yes, you read that right. The story of a fictional meerkat got more interest than an ex-prime minister, Britain’s best musical export of 2002, a comedian now famous across the pond and Kylie Minogue’s sister. 

But yet, this is the perfect example of adverts that have come from industries notorious for being legislative nightmares and turned into advertising phenomena. 

If you’re unsure of how to be creative, here are some great examples of adverts from insurance companies that have done some incredibly creative things with limited boundaries:

  1. Direct Line. From their adverts with superheroes like Bumblebee and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to their Winston Wolf adverts. Incredibly well recognised and easily digestible, they use pop culture figures to show the benefits of buying Direct Line Insurance. 
  2. Anyone else remember the Hastings statue adverts from a few years back? Using a brand relevant figure named Harry Hastings, Hastings Direct used their consumer champion character to highlight the positives of Hastings insurance?
  3. How could we come this far without mentioning Churchie? The famous Churchill dog has its own place in British pop culture history. Animal figureheads, like Alexsandr and Churchie, have become iconic in adland but we should be careful to not overuse them 

Red tape isn't a bad thing: Pharma

In fact, it’s the opposite. 

In America, the pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with a crowded market. As such, those marketing the new medical products have to make themselves heard over their competitors. The FDA (Food and Drug Association) in America heavily regulates the advertisement of medical and pharmaceutical products, not only to protect the customer but doctors and medical professionals who administer such drugs. 

Contravening the rules ends in lawsuits, prison sentences and bans. In July 2016, Johnson and Johnson’s Acclarent unit paid more than $18 million to resolve U.S. claims of illegally marketing a medical device. 

They were also lumped with a $344m fine at the beginning of 2020 over deceptively marketing transvaginal mesh, and are embroiled in a historic civil case in states across the US about the opioid epidemic. 

The FDA provides guidance on how you can market such medical products, and yet by the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits out for big pharma companies in the US, you’d think it didn’t exist. 

Red tape provides advertisers with a barrier and consumers with a place to fact check advertising. As marketers, it can be hard to work with sometimes, when sign off takes weeks, but so many companies have shown and continue to show that red tape does not mean boring. 

Banking on it: Banking

For centuries, banks have been at the core of towns, a staple on the high street. With the rapidly changing face of the high street to experience focused retail and a boom in e-commerce, banks find themselves in the middle of all of this as an essential service, yet one that must connect the online and offline worlds with perfect harmony and no discrepancy. 

Digital-only “challenger” banks such as Monzo or Starling have boomed over recent years. Monzo’s first proper advert was their “You Make Monzo, Monzo” and the headline ad has garnered 20 million views on YouTube in one year. 

Starling made headlines when it released it’s first-ever TV ad, firmly planting a step in the rise of digital challenger banks. 

Both adverts emphasise the simplicity of use, the perks of a digital-only bank and emphasise the brand. The Starling ad uses a starling bird(s) to make the ad flow, whereas Monzo creates scenarios of use. 

However, research shows banks are focusing too much on millennials, and not on those that may be higher-value customers. 

It’s sometimes assumed that baby boomers are distrustful of online banking; whereas data from GlobalWebIndex shows that nearly as many 55-64-year-old internet users (67%) bank online each month as 25-34s (72%).  

While this does drop for mobile banking (49%), the former age group isn’t far behind 16-24s (53%) in terms of how heavily this device features in their monthly banking routine.

Monzo and Starling have both made a statement with their first advertising offerings. However, it will be interesting to see how they market to a wider audience and those that are more likely to have access to larger savings. 

Three things to think about when marketing banking:

  1. Focus on appealing to multiple age groups. Banking is one thing everyone does, so there is an endless target market.
  2. Stick with the less regulated points of banking, i.e your customer service or the abilities of your app. This can help to speed up sign off and reduces any potential litigation. 
  3. What makes you unique (aside from your interest rates)? Monzo has the instantly recognisable coral card, what makes you stand out?

We’ve listed three industries, some that use red tape effectively, to inspire creativity and others which sadly have lagged behind and made astronomically terrible decisions leading to thousands of deaths. 

If you’re working with industries that are wrapped in red tape, why not see if we can inject some creativity into it?

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