Wells Fargo Tries to Strike Emotional Chord With Consumers In New Ad

See the Spot, Starring the Wright Brothers and Rosa Parks

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Most financial services companies approach advertising by talking about no-extra fees, low-interest rates and other product offers. But, Wells Fargo is taking a departure from that tack, in the hopes its new campaign will tug at consumers' heartstrings.

The financial services firm has launched a TV commercial that depicts historical moments in time, from the Wright brothers' first flight to Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat. There are also touching moments, like a 29-year-old woman hearing her voice for the first time, a blind man climbing a mountain and a mother with her newborn. Woven throughout the 60-second spot is the idea that great things can happen when people talk. The spot concludes by saying, "So start a conversation today, the possibilities are endless."

Wells Fargo's chief marketer Jamie Moldafsky said the ad is repositions the brand, which would typically focus on more tangible products and solutions. "What's different about this campaign is it's about an idea and the power of that idea," she said. "What people are looking for is friendly conversation with someone they trust. ...That idea resonates strongly given the environment we're in."

"We do a really good job of bringing to life rational things-products and services. Why choose Wells Fargo for mortgages, for example," added Michael Lacorazza, integrated marketing manager for the brand. "We haven't done as good a job building that emotional quality and bringing that to life. ...Once the door is opened emotionally, maybe people will be more receptive to hearing what it means for them practically."

The ad is unbranded until the final seconds, meaning consumers might not initially be able to guess the advertiser while they're watching. Ms. Moldafsky and Mr. Lacorazza said that was something discussed extensively internally. "Down the road we'll link more explicitly to Wells Fargo," Ms. Moldafsky said. "Given the magnitude of the conversations we included, we felt a humbleness about that."

Mr. Lacorazza said that in developing the campaign, the brand wanted to explore what made it different from competitors. What it heard from consumers were stories about advisors who took the time to listen and learn more about an individual's financial situation before simply handing over documents for a loan or mortgage application. That insight is what DDB, California worked to develop with the new campaign, "Conversations." Wells Fargo is No. 67 among the country's largest ad spenders and spends more than $600 million annually.

Ms. Moldafsky said the concept is also appealing because it's inherently social and supports the work Wells Fargo has been doing to develop conversations with customers and potential customers online. The brand will be encouraging conversations through live, moderated forums and Facebook, for example.

The campaign is slated to run throughout this year, with heavier weight in the spring and fall.

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