How Nationwide gave diversity a voice

Nationwide’s ‘Voices’ campaign achieved a double-pronged goal of providing a platform for diverse creative voices across the UK and helping grow the building society’s share of switched accounts to 20%.

How often does advertising actually portray the authentic life experiences and rich diversity of British society?

This was the objective for Nationwide, which wanted to create a campaign that stood out from the wider market by giving real people a voice. From a business perspective, the concept also needed to help grow Nationwide’s share of current accounts.

As as a building society owned by its members, Nationwide believed there was an opportunity to clearly separate its brand from the mistrust associated with the world of corporate banking. Working with creative agency VCCP, Nationwide brainstormed how it could demonstrate it was a brand ‘of the people, for the people’, while at the same time replacing the traditional voice of the bank with a diverse range of creativity.

The result was ‘Voices’, a campaign brought to life by spoken word poets living and working across the UK. Each poet was given a broad theme such as home, friendship, family or loyalty, and asked to write some verses based on their personal life experiences, film themselves performing their words and then send the films back to the team.

Some 31 poets were selected based on their backgrounds and rich life experiences. They were young and old, male and female, gay and straight, cisgender and trans, and were of varying ethnicities. The chosen poets also hailed from different walks of life and spoke with a variety of regional accents, less commonly heard in advertising.

The Voices campaign, first aired in September 2016, was kept relatively low-budget to ensure the feel of each ad was authentic, raw and not over-produced. To achieve this feeling the poets were filmed in their own clothes and on location in their homes and local neighbourhoods.

“The ‘voices’ bit is quite important actually,” explains Nationwide CMO, Sara Bennison. “It’s really easy to see this as images. That is where this all started 15 years ago in the industry, with images of diversity. But how often do you hear a 65-year-old woman speaking in an ad?”

Despite winning widespread acclaim, including the award for Diversity and Inclusion Champion at the 2018 Marketing Week Masters, the Voices campaign sadly provoked a minority of people to react with racist, sexist, misogynistic and homophobic opinions on social media.

Unwilling to simply silence the trolls and become complicit in normalising such unacceptable behaviour, Nationwide worked with ISBA, the Metropolitan Police and Stop Hate UK to create #ChallengeHate, a protocol for how brands should tackle hate speech on their social platforms.

Joint effort

Then in September the building society teamed up with Channel 4, Mars and McCain on #TogetherAgainstHate, an ad break takeover featuring three recent campaigns overlaid with real racist, homophobic, violent and discriminatory posts sent to the talent appearing on screen. #TogetherAgainstHate proved to be a big success, scooping Marketing Week’s 2018 campaign of the year award at the end of last year.

Aside from driving a message of inclusion and inspiration, Voices had a significant impact on Nationwide’s brand consideration, which is at its highest level since tracking began.

Now one in five of bank accounts that are switched are switched to Nationwide, meaning the building society’s share of switched accounts has grown from 13% to 20%. Analysis shows Voices contributed to 28% of those switched accounts, representing a 47% improvement per gross rating point compared to previous campaigns, as well as returning £2.66 of member value for every £1 spent.

Voices also scored highly as an example of emotive advertising that ‘inspires’, instils ‘confidence’ and fosters ‘pride’ in viewers, according to advertising tracking analysis. As a result Nationwide experienced improvements in its brand image, particularly on measures such as whether the brand is ‘appropriate for me personally’, a brand ‘you can trust’ and a brand that is ‘different to other financial service providers’.

The building society claims the campaign is the most differentiated and persuasive advertising in the category, compared to competitor averages and the brand’s historic ads.