CIBC targets commuters with whimsy

The Challenge...

The Challenge

Come RRSP season, the financial services market starts to look every bit as cluttered as the cereal aisle of the local supermarket. Everywhere consumers turn, it seems there’s someone beckoning them down the one true path to future prosperity.

This was among the obstacles confronting CIBC as it prepared to launch a campaign for its wealth management arm last October: How to stand out in a sea of similar messages, usually touting financial products that the average consumer barely begins to understand?

As if that weren’t enough, CIBC also had to contend with the fact that most Canadians still don’t view the big banks as places to go for investment products such as mutual funds. ‘Banks have always had the hardest time,’ says Duncan Bruce, senior vice-president and executive creative director with CIBC’s Toronto-based agency, Publicis Canada, ‘because people tend to see them as strictly transactional.’

The Media Strategy

The target group for the campaign consists of older, affluent urbanites. Out-of-home was chosen as the primary medium because these folks are busy and tend to be on the move a great deal, says Sunni Boot, president of Optimedia Canada, the media arm of Publicis.

Newspaper and television, meanwhile, lend added support. The print work broke in mid-October, at roughly the same time as the out-of-home. The TV is launching now.

The creative was plastered on transit shelters throughout Canada’s major urban centres – particularly in locations close to CIBC branches, where in-store material helps to hammer the message home. In Toronto, CIBC also took exclusive ownership of all vertical posters in more than 30 subway cars on the city’s Yonge-University line (which was chosen because of the large number of professional commuters who ride each day).

The Execution

Where a lot of financial services advertising tends to be dry and wordy, CIBC and its agency opted instead for a simple and whimsical concept – one that works well in out-of-home, but that can easily be adapted to other media as well.

The transit ads feature the headline ‘We make your money work harder,’ accompanied by images of the various prime ministers doing manual labour. The tagline ‘A bank you can invest with’ helps to reinforce the idea that customers can turn to CIBC for investment products, Bruce says.

The newspaper portion of the campaign borrows the same imagery, but takes advantage of the scope afforded by print to deliver more information about specific CIBC financial products. The animated television spots, meanwhile, help bring the brand message alive for consumers by adding sound and movement to the out-of-home concept. ‘Now you’ll actually see Laurier shovelling snow,’ Bruce says.


While it’s still too early to gauge the success of the campaign, Bruce says that anecdotal reports suggest the creative is indeed breaking through the clutter and getting noticed.

Lessons Learned

First lesson: Don’t assume that Canadians know their dead prime ministers. According to Bruce, the creative team was surprised to discover in research that not everyone recognized these images as coming from paper currency ‘We thought it would be a no-brainer.’

Second, and more important: When creating a multi-media campaign, start with the out-of-home component, Bruce says. Why? Because the nature of the medium forces the creative team to refine and focus the advertising message, thereby providing a simple means to determine the strength of a strategy. If it can’t be boiled down to something that will fit on a billboard, he says, then it probably needs to be re-examined.

In fact, even if a campaign doesn’t include out-of-home, Bruce will sometimes ask the creative team, ‘What’s the billboard thought?’ in order to help them better focus their thinking. ‘It just goes much smoother,’ he says.

Also in this report:

- The out-of-home conundrum: Why don’t advertisers do a better job of integrating multi-media efforts? p.B1

- Quebec dairy producers milk outdoor opportunities p.B1

- Stampede lures locals with transit blitz: Humorous bus boards take message deep into Calgary’s neighbourhoods p.B4

- Dunkin’ Donuts campaign leaves its mark p.B5