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POV: Are PSU banks advertising more creatively now?

By Nandana Das , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 18, 2011
Their advertising has, more often than not, been dismissed as boring. But, are public sector banks becoming more creative in advertising their products?

Sumanto Chattopadhyay
Executive creative director, Ogilvy India

Some PSU banks have become more creative in their advertising. These days, one does get to see sparks of creativity in PSU bank advertising.

One example is the Bank of India commercial for home loans, in which the husband romances the wife in the streets because they lack privacy at home. The Bank of Baroda ad, in which they talk about technology with a human face, is also quite interesting. A marriage is being arranged, the families meet, the boy decides to talk to the girl, but she responds like one of those typical customer support phone menu voice recordings (Dial 1 for...).

But, not all PSU banks are being innovative. Some of them are stuck in an undifferentiated feel-good space in which it becomes difficult to tell the brands apart.

Samit Sinha
Founder, Alchemist Brand Consulting

Not only has the advertising become more creative than before, for a few, it is virtually unrecognisable from past efforts. One needs to only look at the SBI and Union Bank campaign, amongst others.

Until quite recently, most PSUs, including banks, were virtual monopolies, with little competition to speak of. Marketing communication was never a real need, let alone a priority. So, their advertising was driven more by legal and statutory requirements than strictly business ones. Sometimes, it was just a means for its chairman to score political brownie points. When advertising did serve any real need, it was in the form of announcements for tenders or vacancies, which didn't require great creative skills.

It is only after serious competition came up did PSU banks look at advertising as a branding tool. This also reflects a shift in the mindset of the management.

Emmanuel Upputuru
National creative director, Publicis India

For me, the answer is both yes and no. Every time a PSU bank's account is in the hands of a professional agency you can see the difference and the quality of the work goes up automatically. You see that there is some thought behind the work. The films start looking good, and a brand image starts forming eventually.

But unfortunately, the tenure of the relationships is mostly short-term and campaigns are sporadic. The work has to be simple, insightful and endearing.

The most notable one that comes to my mind is definitely State Bank of India's 'surprisingly SBI' campaign by Leo Burnett.

Saumya Chaudhuri
General manager, IDBI Bank

PSU banks have not only evolved in terms of marketing communications, but have also changed their fundamental approach to banking itself. The last two decades have seen intense competition in the market.

Many foreign and private sector banks have been aggressive in their communication to get customers from PSU Banks. However, things have changed now.

PSU banks are challenging the former on every front -- product offerings, customer service and technology. They are making assertive moves to not only retain the old customers, but also focus on the acquisition of new, young customers by relevant positioning and products.

IDBI Bank, for instance, has had a series of successful ad campaigns through intelligent use of the elephant as a metaphor to convey the successful transition of the brand from a predominantly corporate bank to one that is 'Not just for the Big Boys'.

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