Halifax – a history of ads (and Howard)

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Halifax unveils its new ’Community Choir’ campaign tomorrow (17 September), the first step in its bid to revitalise the brand as a challenger to its high street rivals and which you can see here.

The ad is also the first by its newly appointed creative agency Adam & Eve after parting company with long-standing agency DLKW Lowe.

With a set of all new singing staff members to get acquainted with, Pitch takes a look at eight of the most memorable Halifax ads from the last decade.

Boxing day, 2000, Halifax unleashes its customer services rep Howard Brown onto an unknowing UK public, singing (rather ironically) “Extra, extra, I know you want more” to the tune of Mousse T and Tom Jones “Sex Bomb”. The Halifax business was DLKW’s first account win after it launched earlier that year and despite going on to be voted among the most irritating campaigns on TV, it sparked a bountiful relationship between agency and client, that paved the way for the “Staff as Stars” ads of the noughties.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEVjbosMqFM

Halifax refused to rest on its laurels for its sophomore effort a year later and introduced Matt Thornfield rapping “Who gives you extra” to the Baha Men classic “Who let the dogs out”. Matt’s awkward dad dancing coupled with a singing dog, takes this TV spot to heights (in my opinion) that Halifax have failed to hit since.

Howard went all romantic in 2002, revealing his softer side to the nation as he and colleague, Joanna warbled along to the tune of ’Something Stupid’ by Frank Sinatra aptly switching the lyrics to the catchy “”That’s why we have gone and helped you all with our no obligation hassle-free review.”

In 2003, Halifax looked to get pulses racing with singing staff members (including Howard) claiming, “We’ll give you just a little bit more” to the Liberty X no.1 “Just a little”. There’s very little about banking that’s sexy, despite the best attempts by a Bollywood inspired Howard and co to prove otherwise.

Following his appearance in The Office Christmas Special in 2003, Howard returned to living rooms two years later, with his rendition of Barry White’s “You’re the first, the last, my everything”. A cover version was released in the same year by the tie-tugging Howard for charity, which peaked at no 13 in the UK Singles Chart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPEA95KXHMg

By 2007, the Halifax ads were starting to feel formulaic. Singing staff member? Check. Embarrassingly bad dancing? Check, Howard Brown? Check. So DLKW cranked things up a notch or two and delivered a homage to the Broadway-musicals of yesteryear. The big budget ad was filmed in South Africa and featured Natalie Webster, from Sheffield, belting out “Why don’t you think about your current account today?” to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Think”. With 300 extras and 70 trained dancers the sheer scale of the ad has yet to be surpassed.

Thomas Yau from Leeds spent the majority of the next ad trying to convince audiences that he was into something good, pointing out that “”We give you 60 times more than these others could” while Howard Brown surfed along saying “If I’m telling a lie my name ain’t Brown”. Something should have told bank chiefs that an ominous fate lay ahead for Halifax, who were absorbed by rival Lloyd’s later that year. We did get to see a surfing Howard Brown, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Following a review of its £18m year creative account in 2008, Halifax reappointed the newly merged DLKW and Lowe agency to come up with a new ’more serious’ strategy that moved away from the upbeat “Staff as Stars” ads. On the heels of recession the new Halifax FM aired in 2010, introducing the new slogan ’Say hi to £5 a month’. Cue Spandau Ballet’s 80s classic ’Gold’ and lots of high fiving bank employees. If only radio was this fun.

And so here we are, back with a new strategy and a new agency and we’ll see soon enough if the approach helps revive Halifax’s standing.

To see the best creative work from creative, digital and design agencies go to the Pitch website by clicking here

To Halifax campaigns, click here

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