ING builds master brand with

The new television spot for ING Canada raises a number of compelling questions in the course of 30 seconds, not least of which is: What the hell happened to the Dutch guy?...

The new television spot for ING Canada raises a number of compelling questions in the course of 30 seconds, not least of which is: What the hell happened to the Dutch guy?

You know who we mean: The stern, balding dude with the collarless shirts and clipped diction who appears regularly on the nation’s TV screens, exhorting consumers to move their savings to virtual bank ING Direct.

To most Canadians, the Dutch guy – whose real name, if you’re curious, is Frederik DeGroot – has become pretty much synonymous with the ING brand over the past several years. So why is he conspicuously absent from this latest advertising effort?

It’s a little complicated, so bear with us here. What you need to understand is this: ING Direct is simply one arm of parent company ING Canada (itself a subsidiary of Dutch-based ING Groep NV). This larger organization also sells insurance products through a number of subsidiaries, among them the Halifax Insurance Company, the Wellington Insurance Company and BelairDirect. And it recently spun off a mutual fund company, ING Funds.

Until now, the organization’s only mass-market advertising efforts have been for ING Direct. But ING Canada wants to be known for more than just direct banking. The goal now is to position the ING brand more broadly as a financial services provider on a par with the likes of Royal Bank – a single entity capable of meeting the customer’s entire range of banking, insurance and investment needs.

One step down this road was adding the ING name to its various insurance subsidiaries last year. Another was the decision to launch a major corporate branding effort, consisting of a single lavish spot that hit the airwaves Jan. 15.

‘What we’re doing is tilling the soil for ING,’ says Philippe Garneau, a partner with the company’s Toronto-based agency, Garneau Würstlin Philp Brand Engineering. ‘We’re preparing the ground for them to be able to say, ‘Look, you can come to us for insurance, for banking, for mutual funds.”

It was clear from the outset that this campaign shouldn’t bear too close a resemblance to the ING Direct advertising. That campaign is a deliberately simple and stripped-down effort – a radical departure from the category norm, meant to position the brand as a clear alternative to the big banks. The ING Canada ‘master brand,’ however, needs to convey a greater sense of stature.

‘We wanted bigness, we wanted to be imposing,’ Garneau says. ‘Because when it comes to their money, people do not take chances. They want their blue jeans to come from an exciting, edgy company. But they want their bank to be the safest, most stolid and reliable company in the world. We wanted people to see the spot and say, ‘ING – oh, they’re big. Because in finance big equals stable. Big means you’re not going to screw up.’

Shot in moody black and white, the ad shows giant letters ‘I,’ ‘N’ and ‘G’ being unloaded from cargo ships, rail cars and airplanes – images meant to convey a sense that ING is now bringing the full force of its global brand into Canada. While all this is happening, a woman’s voice speaks solemnly of the ongoing ‘financial revolution,’ and of ING’s presence in more than 60 countries around the world. ‘We were made for this revolution,’ the voice-over says. ‘Want to manage your money in ways that fit these new times? Remember our name: ING.’

The spot concludes with the ING letters resting incongruously on a suburban front lawn, where a small boy on a bicycle peers at them quizzically. Garneau says this final shot is meant to bring the huge ING brand down to human scale, and help consumers understand that it exists ultimately to serve their needs.

The evolution of the ING brand in Canada is ‘a work in progress,’ Garneau says, and the next stage remains to be mapped out. For now, the corporate branding spot will co-exist with the ongoing ING Direct work. In fact, a new spot featuring the ever-popular Dutch guy is currently on the air.

Until the ‘master brand’ has carved out a space for itself in the consumer’s mind, this may create some confusion in the marketplace, Garneau concedes. But for now, ING is willing to live with that.

‘It’s just something that time is going to have to take care of,’ he says. ‘There’s no easy way to solve the problem, so we just accept it.’


Client: ING Canada

Agency: Garneau Würstlin Philp Brand Engineering

Creative Directors: Philippe Garneau, Michael Würstlin, Bruce Philp

Art Director: Michael Würstlin

Copywriters: Philippe Garneau, Bruce Philp

Producer: Carmelle Prud’homme

Project Manager: Debra Collett

Director: Carlton Chase/Radke Productions

Media: Television

Start Date: Jan. 15

We’re always on the lookout for great new campaigns to feature in this column. If you’ve got a suggestion, please contact Peter Vamos at