18 September 2014

Chris Dunne

Chris Dunne - VocaLink Limited

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Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

Brilliant and scary ATM advert from the taxman

25 January 2013  |  5249 views  |  6

Today I saw the most effective piece of advertising ever on a cash machine.  I rolled up to a Tesco ATM – a nice new NCR device with a video display that normally has a few rolling ads for the supermarket as you wrestle your debit card out of your pocket and into the slot.

I was immediately confronted by a rather attractive girl’s eyes staring straight at me.  This doesn’t happen very often so I paused before inserting my card.  Underneath the eyes was the message “We’re closing in on undeclared income”, and I then saw the logo from HMRC (the tax collection agency in the UK) in the top corner. 

Now thoroughly intrigued, I carried on watching whilst the video rolled.  The girl’s eyes looked left and right as though scanning the street; she then looked back into my eyes  and the message changed to “If you’ve declared all your income you have nothing to worry about” followed by “Please insert your card”.

They could just have easily taken the line from Dirty Harry “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

This is genius marketing, making use of a phenomenon called priming.  Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks about this brilliantly in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.  He tells of an experiment in an office kitchen where workers have to put money into an honesty box every time they make tea or coffee.  Above the box was a picture of flowers; every so often this was changed for a picture of eyes looking at you.  No prizes for guessing which picture drove higher contributions to the honesty box.

On a stand-alone video panel like the ones  in some  London Underground stations, this ad would be effective; but put on an ATM it is incredibly powerful. 

What next? I’m waiting for a picture of our CFO to appear on my PC every time I file an expense claim.

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Comments: (8)

Nick Collin - Collin Consulting Ltd - London | 28 January, 2013, 08:15

Yes, brilliant "nudge" advertising.  I see the agency is M&C Saatchi.  Weren't they the people behind the Blair "Devil Eyes" campaign?

A Finextra member | 28 January, 2013, 09:09

I have read thinking, fast and slow - brilliant book!

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 28 January, 2013, 14:17

@ChrisD: The creative does seem compelling but, as I'd said here, ATM users hardly appears to the appropriate target group for an ad of this nature. Since an ad's effectiveness depends on more than just its creative, I'm curious to know in what way you found it effective.

Chris Dunne - VocaLink Limited - London | 28 January, 2013, 18:24

It's effective because of the banking dynamics in the UK.  The vast majority of people have bank accounts, and over 90% of benefit payments and employment payments are through the ACH system to those bank accounts.

In addition, over 70% of cash acquired by individuals is via cash machine, and there were over 40 million regular users of cash machines in 2011 (according to the Payments Council)

So although the UK still has a lot of cash use, most of it comes via credits going into bank accounts and then withdrawals through ATMs from those accounts.  There are very few people who are purely cash users, so the advertising is hitting a large proportion of the target audience, at precisely the time that they are getting their hands on the cash.

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 29 January, 2013, 11:43

Thanks for these numbers but my point is different: Given that ATM users have already declared their income by the act of keeping it in a bank account, isn't showing them an ad about undeclared income somewhat akin to "preaching to the converted"? I'd think that this ad is more suited to places that are hotspots of undeclared income. I'm not sure if bus shelters and shady corners of tube stations fall under this category but, by definition, ATMs don't.

Chris Dunne - VocaLink Limited - London | 29 January, 2013, 12:34

There is no direct connection between money in your bank account and the tax you pay.  Admittedly most people in the UK are paid through PAYE, with tax deducted at source by the employer, so you are right in that all those amounts are already net of tax, but there are a lot of people with additional income that does not get captured by PAYE (rental income, cash-in-hand jobs, some investment income, etc). 

These people should fill out a self-assessment tax return each year.  About 7.65 million people had to do this last year, and the deadline is this Thursday (31 January) for filing.  Naturally the last day sees a huge spike in activity - about one submission every six seconds at peak.

Hence the campaign is well-timed!  There is, naturally, quite a large gap between what some people earn and what they declare to the taxman.  The campaign is part of a concerted effort by HMRC to close the gap.

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 29 January, 2013, 13:33

TY for the detailed clarification. I was actually thinking of banks - not PAYE - fulfilling the role of income declaration. Apart from cash-in-hand, all other incomes - viz. house rent, returns on investment, capital gain on sale of house, etc. - are likely to be routed through bank accounts. In that case, aren't the banks concerned obligated by law to report these transactions to the taxman (as I think they are in at least three countries I know of, namely, India, Germany, USA)? If so, all these other incomes would automatically be treated as declared income with the assessee compelled to cough up taxes on them sooner or later, and my point would remain. If not, I get your point.

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Chris Dunne

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Payment Services Director

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VocaLink Limited

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