Nationwide’s bank bashing ad draws ire of Santander

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Nationwide’s ads attacking its high street banking rivals were controversial from the start, with some questioning whether it was really on brand for the UK’s most famous building society to front its campaign with an A-list actor. Some also questioned whether the stereotype of an out-of-touch banking boss depicted in the ad really even existed anymore.

The campaign seems to have also drawn the ire of the banks themselves. Sky News reported this week that Santander had filed a complaint about it in the autumn to the Advertising Standards Authority.

While the ASA didn’t confirm to Sky News that Santander was behind the complaint, it said: “We’ve received a complaint about this ad from Nationwide.

“The complainant argues that the ad is misleading around other banks closing branches, and discredits and denigrates its competitors.”

The centrepiece of Nationwide’s recent rebrand – ‘A Better Way to Bank – was its branches and a pledge not to leave any town or city in which it is based before 2026. It released a league table showing that it had the most high street branches of any major banking brand in the UK, at 605.

Much of Nationwide’s recent marketing has focused on explaining the benefits of building society to a new generation, especially as the cost of living crisis has given it a clear way of differentiating itself. While Nationwide offers much the same services as a high street bank, it is owned by its members rather than shareholders.

According to the mutual, the rebrand aims to ensure it “remains attractive and relevant for future generations of customers looking for a financial services provider that puts people before profit.”​

It’s unclear whether the ASA will uphold the complaint. Nationwide’s marketers may for now simply be celebrating that the ad has made a mark in a world of limited attention spans.

Finding more to say about building societies from a positive perspective, without necessarily requiring a negative comparison with banks, may be another challenge.

We’ll delve into the future of the mutual model at our event on 23 April.

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