Why the new TSB advert may be the most shameless and cynical ever

As you may have noticed, the TSB brand is back on the High Street. For those of us that remember the old Trustee Savings Bank – I opened my very first bank account with the TSB back in the 1990s – having the Bank That Likes To Say Yes back in action seems a bit like a return to the halcyon days of old fashioned banking.

The TSB’s return has been accompanied by a charming animated

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If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here:

Now, I have no axe to grind with the TSB. I’m sure the people who work there are lovely and I never had any trouble with my current account there 20 odd years ago. What I do have a problem with, though, is this advert: one of the most disingenuous I have ever seen.

For reasons of clarity, let’s outline the facts surrounding TSB’s recent past:

1. The bank existed as its own entity until 1986

2. In 1986 shares in TSB Bank were floated on the stock market

3. In 1995 it merged with the Lloyds Banking Group. The two brands were amalgamated and shareholders then owned shares in Lloyds TSB

4. In 2008, the falling HBOS share price led Lloyds taking over its rival. Lloyds TSB shareholders approved the takeover in November 2008 (thanks to JP for the clarification, here)

5. The British Government bailed out the bank by buying a 43.4% stake in the group in 2009

6. As this purchase was considered ‘state aid’, under European Commission competition laws, the group was required to sell a portion of its business

7. The group decided that a number of Lloyds TSB branches in England and Wales, together with all branches of Lloyds TSB Scotland plc and Cheltenham & Gloucester will form a new business which will operate under the TSB brand

8. The new TSB bank is expected to float in 2014

In short, the TSB bank ceased to exist in 1995 when shareholders approved a merger with Lloyds. Then, the ‘new’ bank was taken over by HBOS and, thanks to its failure and the requirement for government intervention, was forced to divest itself of 632 branches

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which are now branded as TSB.

Let’s check this version of events against the TSB advert, shall we?

“He [Henry Duncan] built a bank whose sole purpose was to help hard working, local people. He believed industry could be encouraged and a sense of pride and independence fostered only when a bank served its community with the people’s interests at its heart.”

Hmm. Nice ideas but starting to look a bit shaky at the point where the bank is considering a stock market flotation…

“The groundwork had been laid for ordinary people to thrive, along with their neighbours. To build communities together. Secure in the knowledge that their money was safe and working for the benefit of all.”

I’m pretty sure that the nature of a stockmarket flotation – as TSB did in 1986 – means that the bank is now working for the benefit of its shareholders rather than its customers. And, a merger with a major rival that is approved by shareholders doesn’t suggest to me that the money ‘was working for the benefit of all’.

Anyway, it goes on.

“And then a storm came. In the turbulent times that followed it was easy to think the ideals that Henry Duncan held so dear had been lost forever. But they hadn’t. They had always been here just waiting to be found. TSB – Welcome back to local banking.”


So, we’re supposed to buy the notion that the relaunch of the TSB brand is an attempt to reconnect with 200 year old visions of what a bank should be like? That Lloyds and subsequently HBOS were simply keeping TSB warm and cosy until such a time when the British public demanded that behaviour from a bank again? That the TSB is going to be a local bank run for the benefit of its customers?

The TSB is back for one reason and one reason only: because HBOS – its owner- failed, the government bailed it out and the laws meant that they had to flog some of their assets. Indeed, had the Co-Operative Bank not pulled out of a deal for the 632 branches at the eleventh hour, the TSB would still be a distant memory and those locations would now be branded as the Co-Op.

And next year the TSB will be floated, once again owned by shareholders and ripe for being gobbled up by a rival when the economy recovers.

I can’t help thinking that Henry Duncan – the man behind the TSB – wouldn’t be celebrating at the return of the ideals on which his bank was based. He’d be disappointed and let down by the appalling spin that HBOS are putting on this whole campaign. Inaccurate, shameless and cynical, this is one of the most unpleasant adverts I’ve seen in recent years.

7 Steps To Editing Direct Mail Copy

copywriterRoscoe Born, former Wall Street Journal editor, once said, “What you have written is only preparation for what you are going to write.”

Once you have written the first draft of your direct mail marketing copy, then it’s time to follow respected copywriter Guy Yolton’s seven key editing steps.

1. Edit for warm-up

At the beginning of your direct mail letter will probably be a statement that got you warmed up.? Something like: “As a successful company owner, you know that managing people is a difficult job…”

The reader already knows this. If your letter contains some information they want to know about, tell them immediately.? They want to know what is new, or what you have to offer them.

2. Edit for stoppers

These often show up when you read your draft copy back to yourself, or when you read it to someone else.? Stoppers are words and phrases that are awkward, contrived, and out of the ordinary.? They hold up your reader and interrupt the rhythm of a piece that otherwise flows smoothly from one idea to another.

3. Edit for author’s pride

A beautifully-turned phrase is fine if it adds a unique and powerful twist to a sales point and keeps the copy moving.? However, if you have come up with a catchy expression that stops your reader along the way while she admires your handiwork and forgets what you’re working at, you may never get her back on track.

If a reader has to

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stop to figure out what your phrases or metaphors mean, they will probably never make it to the end. Delete those little fancy bits that appeal only to you (and

your fellow copywriters.)

4. Edit for order

There are natural sequences of ideas that are easier for people to follow.

For example, ‘small, big, bigger, biggest.’ If you are describing the advantages of your product, this could be the best way to build them.

If your explanation is related to time, use ‘then, now, later on, future.’

Make sure everything is in the right order.

5. Edit for “reason why”

Do the benefits and features you attribute to your product just sit there in mid-air, supported only by the fact that they appear on paper?? Why does it do what you say it will?? How did it get that way?? What proof can you offer?? The reader needs a little more than unsupported assertions to decide to buy.

6. Edit to stretch benefits

This kind of editing is related to what Elmer Wheeler meant when

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he said, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

Your letter might suggest benefits, but does it go far enough? As a copywriter, have you really explained to readers what the benefits are?

7. Edit for market

Is your reader male or female, educated or uneducated? Do they have a large or modest income? Are they old or young?

When re-reading your draft copy, is your language, style, and tone something your reader can be comfortable with on their own terms? Writing for readers of The Economist is different to writing for readers of Nuts or Chat.? Have you tailored the language used in your copy specifically for the target market?

Subscribe to Nick Parkhouse to learn how to improve the effectiveness and quality of your writing.

Nick Parkhouse is a professional writer and copywriter. He provides articles, copy, press releases, books and marketing material to a

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How To Make Your Advertising Irritating

gocompareWhat was the most irritating advert of 2009?

Research from Adwatch has come up with a definitive list of the most annoying advertisements of 2009. It will surprise no-one to learn that the series of commercials for website GoCompare.com topped this year’s poll.

I particularly liked the comments from those interviewed.

“Everyone looks so surprised when he pops up singing. He’s a giant fat man in a suit, there’s only so much sneaking up he can do.” And “Because the stupid jingle sticks in my head no matter how much I don’t wish it to be there.”

This operatic lunacy held off a strong challenge from Cash4Gold and Glade Touch’n’Fresh for the top spot. Churchill, Swiftcover, 118247 and webuyanycar.com also made the top Ten, which suggests that perhaps annoying jingles which act as an earworm are to blame.

The question is, though; do we want to make our advertising, marketing or copywriting irritating? Isannoying potential customers enough in itself?

Those who believe that high levels of irritation is good (you won’t be surprised to learn that those featuring in this list generally fall into that category) argue that irritation leads to awareness – the ultimate aim of all advertising campaigns.

However, Simon White, joint managing director of ad agency Grey London, points out that brands that have been accused of irritating consumers in the past – such as Cillit Bang and Radion – achieved a short-term spike in sales, but struggled to maintain

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annoying advertisements such as those for GoCompare.com are clearly memorable, whether they can form part of a sustainable communication strategy remains to be seen. Put simply, once a brand has done its best to irritate consumers it is difficult to see where the campaign goes next.

In a slightly harsh assessment, Andy Nairn, executive planning director of ad agency MCBD, believes that it is not enough for ads simply to raise awareness if nobody likes them. “Most people have an awareness of Josef Fritzl, but it doesn’t mean they want to spend time with him,’ he says.

Subscribe to Nick Parkhouse to learn how to improve the effectiveness and quality of your writing.

Nick Parkhouse is a professional copywriter. He provides articles, copy, press releases and books, marketing and advertising material to a range of international clients. He also specialises in sports writing for a number of international sports companies as well property, politics and cinema writing.