In a TD Bank advertisement released Monday, a woman tries to stop her significant other from overspending so they can afford a vacation.
That significant other is also a woman.
The ad makes the Canadian-owned bank, which operates in 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, just the second bank to run a major television ad in the United States featuring a same-sex couple. The commercial follows Wells Fargo's recent groundbreaking ad that featured a lesbian couple and the landmark decision from the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.
TD's ad takes a decidedly lighthearted approach, in keeping with the tone of TD's "Bank Human" campaign to which it belongs. The campaign highlights the company's digital offerings by focusing on the everyday needs of banking consumers with a cinematic flair.
It includes television ads, which also run in movie theaters across the country, and specific spots designed for the video streaming service Hulu.
American Banker spoke with TD Bank's chief marketing officer, Vinoo Vijay, to get his take on the company's forays into diversity, TD's context-based approach to advertising and what he sees as the future of bank marketing. The following is an edited version of the interview with Vijay.
How did you choose to integrate diversity, specifically a same-sex couple, into this ad released Monday?
VINOO VIJAY: Diversity is something that's always been part of our ethos. It's something that we've embraced as a company for years. We've not only embraced it, we've acted on it. We have a very robust employee network in the diversity space, and we talk about it a lot. We've made choices as a company that reinforces that. For example, for domestic partners who have a tax consequence, we absorb that tax consequence. Those are things that not a lot of banks do. As we thought about this next wave, one of the things we wanted to get across is that our purpose of being community-centric means that we have to reflect the communities we serve. A simple nod to that is to celebrate a diverse couple in the ad, which is what we do.
How does this presentation of a same-sex couple differ from what TD has done in the past in the U.S.?
This is a national television campaign, so this is going to get a lot more visibility than anything we've done in the past. You'll notice in the spot that it's really about our mobile banking and checking product. It just so happens that the couple in question is a lesbian couple because it reflects the society we live in. What we're doing is pointing out that this is a great product; it's used by everybody. And it's not so surprising anymore. We're assuming the importance of it and move on from there.
The ad's release followed a groundbreaking ad by Wells Fargo and the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Did they influence your choice to run this ad at all?
It's great to see other companies do this. We actually had finished shooting the spot before the Wells Fargo spot came out. While we appreciate that it happened, it didn't influence us because we had already done it. Based on the reaction to the other spot, it's a sensitive issue to some folks, and we understand there's a diversity of opinions. But from our lens, we know what our employees feel.
TD's ad is very funny. How did you go about choosing the tone for the campaign and the specific spots?
What we really try to do is embrace context how are people consuming these spots? We want the spots to be in the context they're consuming it. So if they're consuming it in a moment of entertainment, then it should be entertaining. On the humor side, what were really go for is human versus humor. And it just so happens that great human conversations, that are grounded in truth, have a little humor in them. But it's different kinds of humor it's not ha-ha. We're not doing spots that are slapstick; we're doing spots that make you think and make you reflect.
The ads for traditional TV are very different from the ads produced for Hulu. Why did you choose to make different ads for different settings, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach?
We actually look at it from the context of the platform and then work towards the idea. I think people historically said, "Here's the idea, now how do I translate it into every individual platform?" And I think that limited the effectiveness of the idea within the platform. Part of what Hulu gives you is the ability to give the customers a choice: the way that Hulu is structured is that you actually choose the ads you watch.
One ad features a kitten who tells you about our checking account with a $100 balance as a kitten would. The other is a zombie who tells you about our mortgage as a zombie would. And the third is an homage to Kung-Fu dub movies that tells you about our instant access debit card. But in each one of those scenarios, we're most interested in if the customer is entertained.
One could ask, "What does that have to do with the TV spot?" Well that's not the point the point is, in the context of Hulu, that's what we need to do.
Looking across the industry, do you see any important trends in bank marketing? How do they apply to TD?
Banks have to come to embrace a more natural approach to dialogue with the customer. It's hard to do corporate-type ads and then frame yourself as a neighborhood bank; those two things are very incompatible. We actually videotape all of our managers in New York and put it on Google Places, so if you search one of our stores you hear our store manager talk about the store. One of the things we learned from our social media platforms is that the more we localize our message, the more it gets consumed and customers respond positively. At the end of the day, it's still about what happened to me in my surroundings, and those surroundings are both digital and physical. In both spaces, the relevancy increases as the geography decreases.
So do you see your ad campaign continuing in the future?
"Bank Human" has really resonated with our employees and our customers because it says a lot. What human really is getting across is not only that we would treat you in a way that we treat ourselves, but also that in a world of digital excess you can always count on a human touch. It doesn't mean that you don't get the efficiencies of digital, but that you also get the relationship that comes from the human touch. That is the crux of our argument.