Struggling to get into work mode, check out these ads

DBS's latest ad campaign gets you thinking: What sells financial services? Or maybe they just make for a good distraction post hols, when it's hard to get back into work mode.

For weeks now, I’ve had a Post-it note on my desk reminding myself: Write DBS, and tell them you like their television ads positioning themselves as an Asian bank, not just a Singapore one. But one thing after another piled up, and I kept forgetting to e-mail them.

So I’m writing about it here. In December DBS Bank launched a S$30 million ($23.5 million) regional branding campaign to boost its presence in its key Asian markets. If you haven’t seen it, then you aren’t a news-hound junkie watching financial TV after work, or flying regularly on Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or China Airlines. But, in a nutshell, the campaign showcases DBS’s presence in the region, underscoring that it’s not just a Singapore bank. (For more on that, see The New Face of DBS). 

In a smart insiders-get-it marketing move, the campaign shows how the bank supports its own customers. For example, it features such corporate clients as: Singapore-listed Ezra; one of the world’s largest independent energy trading companies Vitol; Want Want from Taiwan; and leading sportswear company Li Ning from China. The campaign also features Micromax, a manufacturer of mobile handsets, and UTV, the largest integrated media and entertainment conglomerate, both from India.

And you can also play spot the celebrity in the ads, as they feature Singaporean singer Kit Chan, boutique hotelier Loh Lik Peng and his father Dr Loh Hung Soo, and Hian Goh, co-founder of the Asian Food Channel.

When the campaign was launched, Karen Ngui, group strategic marketing and communications head said in a statement: “The DBS brand campaign epitomises the rise of Asia -- its energy, resilience, self-confidence and growing influence on the world stage. It also reflects DBS's own journey, as a bank that has progressed from its roots as the Development Bank of Singapore to become a leading regional bank.”

It's good to see an ad that actually achieves what it set out to do. That said, the campaign is a touch reminiscent of HSBC ads, which also showcase the bank’s reach. But that’s not a criticism, HSBC’s campaign is a success story. The phrase “The world’s local bank” is after all, catchy. The billboard ads, across major cities and transportation hubs, are wonderful juxtapositions of images that mean different things in different places; the underlying message is that HSBC knows the difference in each place, which is smart positioning.

 My favourite HSBC television ad is the one of the little boy who is taught by his uncle to see the world through a lens, which he initially forms using his hands. The idea is that the uncle is teaching the boy to see the world in a positive light, which in turn could help him find more opportunities. According to HSBC, “The advert aims at demonstrating HSBC’s ability to help people expand their potential, and to make the most of all the world has to offer”.

For me, it just is touching. And therefore memorable, which is nice. But when I’m restless (and not following my "to do" list) I surf the web for E*Trade baby ads, which promote thinking about your future and investing properly, but are all told through a baby who is doing adult things such as getting measured by a tailor, talking on the phone or surfing the web. I dare you to watch them and not at the very least smile.

But the absolute best is the MasterCard ad, featuring what money can buy, and can’t – some things are priceless, such as the dad who is tolerant of the young man trying to get it on with his daughter. Haven’t seen it? Write yourself a Post-it note to go to YouTube and type in “Banned from TV! Priceless! Credit Card Ad”.

Or just check it out now (after you've read all the stories posted on our site today!), while I write a note to DBS.

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