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Front Foot Quarterly Member Profile: Nationwide

/ February 25th 2019 / Chris Sutcliffe
Front Foot Quarterly

At its best advertising is representative of the public it reaches; diverse in purpose and form. As with the media more widely, it could be said that the public’s fall in trust in advertising is due to a lack of accurate representation, of feeling that each advertisement is stage managed and focus tested past the point of credibility. For those advertising messages to land, then, brands need to have genuine authenticity and empathy with their audiences.

Two years ago, Nationwide launched its Voices campaign, giving members of the public a space in which to extemporise on subjects that mattered the most to them. Since then it has broadened both the medium by which those opinions are heard, and has naturally attracted a representative sample of the public.

In this interview, Nationwide’s Director of Advertising & Media Paul Hibbs explains the philosophy behind the campaign and why “the essence of the campaign, which is giving every day people a voice to talk about what matters to them, will continue for the foreseeable future.”


CS:  What role does advertising play in leading societal change?

PH: Advertising has a track record of influencing culture in the UK in a whole range of different ways. We still talk about ads that were 30, 40 years old and straplines and jingles, so it’s really important that advertising reflects society today – and representation within that is key.

We’ve got a membership base of 15 million and within that is a cross-section of the UK population, so by definition our membership base is diverse too. It’s crucial that we represent the cross-section of the community which we serve. It’s important we do it from that perspective, it’s also important we do it from a society perspective as well because, of course, this country is multicultural and diverse in a lot of ways.

CS: Why choose to feature everyday people? Was it to reach a public that increasingly seems to be jaded and less receptive to brand messages?

PH: You can get real life quite wrong in advertising. There have been lots of examples I think where we try to do real and, because it’s advertising there’s always a veneer of fiction in it which always makes it feel like it was scripted, because that’s what the consumer will always look at.

When we saw the reels from the test films it just immediately felt that this was the closest thing to real life that we found. I think we found that every day people can relate to [one another] more than to big banking corporations or financial services companies. We also found that not everyone relates to everybody, and this is why we produced and aired in excess of 40 different companies over the last two years.

This isn’t the Nationwide ‘Voice’ campaign, it’s the Nationwide ‘Voices’ campaign and there are a whole plethora of diverse styles and voices across the UK which need to be represented, age groups, demographics, a whole range of things. We’ve found there are very few ads that everybody likes, but there seems to be at least one or two ads that somebody likes.

CS: Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more brands try to counter a lack of trust through representation – Nationwide was ahead of the curve in that respect. Do you think this is a long-term trend?

PH: It’s absolutely the right thing to do. It’s far from perfect. Every time we run ads which feature a diverse range of people we get quite a bit of social media coming through, not all of it positive, which really led us to do the #TogetherAgainstHate campaign which we did in collaboration with Channel 4, McCain and Mars Maltesers earlier in September.

We wanted to try to bring to light that online hate isn’t acceptable. We thought ‘this is just making us more complicit in the problem’, let’s instead highlight the problem. There’s no way we could ever stop trying to achieve it, just because there are a minority of people who object. We’re getting much better at it.

CS: What role does an organisation like Front Foot have in aiding the industry with issues like the ones we’ve spoken about?

PH: Having a body like the Advertising Association is priceless for the industry. No other organisation has the ability to represent the views of clients, agencies, both creative and media and industry bodies altogether.

It’s important that we promote the power of advertising in the UK. Without the AA behind that and driving it forward, it’s going to be impossible for that to be heard from any individual brand, so we are proud to be partners with it, proud to be members with it and it’s doing a cracking job for the industry.

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