Wednesday, February 08, 2006

RBC's four-star ad

Regular readers will be pleased to learn that I’ve found an ad targeting small business that I actually like.

The fact that it appears opposite my new column in the Feb.-March issue of MoneySense is just a coincidence.

It’s an ad for RBC Royal Bank, part of its mysterious series of ads whose photos include people standing in front of a shoulder-high billboard with the word “FIRST”. (I always thought “First” was part of Bank of Montreal’s branding, so I am still confused by its use by the Royal.)

The ad starts with a great headline: “After his business burned down, Steve Booy not only found out who his friends were. He discovered who his bank was.”

The body copy goes on to explain that when Steve’s Automotive Repair in Woodstock, Ont., went up in flames, all his financial records were lost. Kindly waiving an immediate loan payment, an RBC account manager sat down with Steve to discuss the future. (“Without financial records,” RBC says, “some banks might not have talked to Steve.”) But RBC “was flexible, finding a financial solution that recognized his specific circumstances.”

The result? “Today, an expanded Steve’s Automotive is a state-of-the-art nine-bay facility,” “well-equipped, Steve says, with fire extinguishers.”

There you have it. An ad that tells a believable, human story. Like all great stories, form the first ancient myths to Star Wars, it comes complete with a problem, a hero (that creative banker) and a happy ending.

Plus, the tale is told simply and efficiently, to match entrepreneurs’ attention spans – using just enough details to make it credible, and even a grin-worthy punch line.

And at the end, of course, comes the call to action that every ad should have (but many don’t): “To find out what RBC Royal Bank can do to put your business first, call 1-800 ROYAL 2-0, or visit

Note the subtle reinforcement of the “first” branding, and the ease of the contact tools offered: a toll-free number that’s easy to remember, and a URL that’s easy to type.

The ad itself speaks to the loneliness and vulnerability that applies to most entrepreneurs (and which I have discussed in numerous posts, including the one immediately preceding this one). RBC depicts an entrepreneur at his lowest point, and describes how it stood by him. That kind of security, that kind of relationship, is exactly what most entrepreneurs want.

This ad works because it speaks entrepreneurs’ language, it understands their needs without overstating them, it’s grounded in reality, and it offers a clear and genuine benefit. I give it four stars.

PLUS: In promoting this apparently true story (you can visit, RBC’s ad does one more thing – it raises expectations.

It ups the ante. It dares other bankers – within the Royal or its many competitors – to do for their clients what Steve’s account manager did for him. This could come back to haunt RBC – can its bankers work such magic all the time? (Especially given that many credit-watchers say the banks are set to tighten up on credit as the Canadian economy peaks.)

In the meantime, setting the bar so high makes a great testimonial for RBC – and a nice shot of confidence (and bargaining power) for entrepreneurs across the country.

Full disclosure: I do most of my personal banking at the Royal, mainly because my dad worked there all his life. But if you think that kind of thing influences my writing, you haven’t been reading my stuff very long.

No comments: