Did FNB aim to capitalise on controversy? And is it treason?

Is their new “You can Help” campaign intended to capitalise on the same approach that Nando’s takes, courting controversy to build brand awareness and position it as irreverent and anti-authority?

Hardly, this is a bank after all, and one with the resources to build brand relationships without resorting to guerrilla marketing tactics.

So what exactly in the FNB TV and video campaign is subversive?  And should the ad be seen as treasonous, as claimed by the ANC and the Youth League?  Well, only one of the series is available for viewing, since FNB has bowed to political pressure and removed the others from the internet.  But take a look at the remaining one, and judge for yourself.

I love this. It shows the passion and commitment of South Africa’s youth for our country.  It echoes the hope and optimism of a nation that has so much more to do.  It certainly acknowledges that South Africa is not perfect, but it encourages everyone to do their bit, small or great, to contribute to a happier nation.

FNB interviewed 1360 junior and high school children to take the temperature of the nation’s youth.  They built a compelling message and produced material that resonates.

But they didn’t stop to evaluate the way in which a social statement would be viewed by some of their VIP clients.  The response of the ANC and the Youth League just shows that your content might be accurate and well-researched, but you can’t always control the way in which people will respond to your ad.  And even if you hit jackpot with some of your target market, your message might alienate others.

Radio and online activity shows the support for this campaign, but the intense political reaction shows that a powerful message can polarise your audience.

What is your response to this ad?  Perhaps the others were more critical of the current situation in South Africa, but unfortunately they are not available for comment.


  1. Ann Druce on January 25, 2013 at 12:34

    Interesting, FNB have updated their youcanhelp.co.za website, removing the one remaining ad and including tips on how the man in the street can help. (Were they reading my blog?) But I have to say the suggestions are trite at best. How relevant is “offer a lift to someone walking in the rain” or “offer to babysit” in South African society? Smacks of no planning or strategic thinking.

  2. Jenni Lovett on January 24, 2013 at 08:37

    I definitely dont find it treasonous – the youth are stating their feelings about SA as it is now. If the government is taking offence to the ad, perhaps it is touching on something close to home. Instead of using what these children are saying and starting to make improvements, they are up in arms.

  3. Claudine on January 23, 2013 at 12:39

    For me, FNB looked for a topical piggy to back for maximum exposure in brand mentions. After all, why reinvent the wheel – or break the creativity bank, for that matter? What better vehicle than the SA government whose escapades are always headlining the news! As for their reaction, well, they were bound to have one. I don’t believe FNB’s objective was to state a political viewpoint. It’s just a well-planned ad in these financially-unstable times used to incite a mass emotive response. Now if they’d only managed to add religion to the mix, they would’ve hit an unbeatable trifector! Well played, FNB.

  4. Ingrid on January 22, 2013 at 18:02

    I don’t find it treasonous but I only watched this one and don’t know what the rest were like. However it seems very un-FNB, I’m not convinced they are that caring or are the ‘bank for the people’. They’re a bank, busy making money, quite an innovative bank but I never think of them as having any kind of ‘heart’. Is this what they are trying to attempt..?

  5. Jennifer on January 22, 2013 at 14:26

    Well it seems as if FNB are positioning themselves as the bank of the people. A bank that genuinely cares about our country. I cannot see it as a comment against the ANC or even our government but rather against all of society that begrudges other people’s success and the scarcity mentality that pervades much of our society. yesterday I spoke to a client who was afraid to broadcast her success too much, lest the journalists decide to use her as a scandal target to sell their newspapers. The ANC must indeed have a guilty conscience to react so violently to it. Viva Free Speech Viva!!!!!

    • Ann Druce on January 22, 2013 at 17:48

      I agree; I can’t find anything that blames the government for the human failings that are mentioned in the ad.

      Perhaps the teenagers in the pulled ads were more outspoken, or more specific about problems in SA.

  6. Ginny on January 22, 2013 at 14:17

    I can’t help but wonder what the objective was behind this ad. The message is certainly powerful, but is it meant to be saying something about FNB’s role in this process? Or is it providing a platform for the youth the speak, and for the message to go viral? CSI communication is always tricky — do you shout about what your business is doing, or do you rather reserve precious funds for the initiatives themselves? Who are your target markets for CSI messaging, and what do you want to think/feel/do about it? How does it fit in to your broader marketing strategy and company mission?

    • Ann Druce on January 22, 2013 at 17:53

      It’s not easy to establish how FNB plans to execute their CSI strategy. Their website http://www.youcanhelp.co.za includes interesting information and research, but it doesn’t indicate any way in which a visitor to the site can get involved and help, no call to action or suggestion as to how each individual could participate. I think this is a pity, but perhaps that is still to come.

      • Ginny on January 22, 2013 at 21:11

        Aha, seeing all the e-mails and comments flying around, I’m guessing FNB’s objective was to create maximum FNB brand dialogue (whatever it actually means) – in which case it’s worked. Cynical?
        Another comment from marketing specialist Chris Moerdyk who says he finds the marketing “confused because it tends to leave the consumer in a quandary about just how they are supposed to react or get involved. But, that is not to say it is a bad idea – perhaps just a little inefficient,”

      • Claudine on January 23, 2013 at 12:49

        Call me cynical but I don’t believe there’s anything more to come. I think they’re using the link to measure the campaign.
        They couldn’t risk “doing more” without becoming involved in a political debacle and that kind of publicity would hurt them. Besides, that kind of diversification is nonsensical! It’d confuse their identity – are they trying to get noticed as the number one powerful bank or running for seats in parliament? I think it’s clear. Idea for a follow-on campaign: FNB for President.

  7. Kathy Alexander on January 22, 2013 at 14:16

    I think the offended parties are feeling guilty if they are taking it personally . Once again “free speech” is being shot down as someone takes insult from a speech from our youth .

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