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Controversial (amended) Nationwide campaign back on air – not many dead

Nationwide’s controversial campaign by New Commercial Arts about bank closures is back on air – with a changed V/O featuring its revised promise not to close any more branches before 2028. The original, implying it wasn’t closing branches full stop, was pulled after complaints to the ASA from, among others, rival Santander. Here’s the new version.

Bank closures, of course, are in the eye of the beholder. Most of the ASA complaints came from people who’d seen local Nationwide branches closing too. Santander, it seems, has closed less than others although my (busy) local one closed a few years ago. Lloyds seems to be closing a lot: the mighty north London metropolis of Highgate, Crouch End and Muswell Hill now doesn’t seem to have any. Lloyds is wisely keeping quiet.

The ASA says: “Following a thorough investigation, (we) determined that, in the twelve months prior to the campaign, Nationwide closed more branches than Santander. Thus, the claims made in the ad, which indicated that competitor banks were closing branches, whereas Nationwide were not, was misleading.

“We determined that, from the ads themselves, customers would assume the Branch Promise would extend into the future, whereas in reality it was only valid until 2026 when the ads aired.”

Nationwide’s Richard Warren says: “At a time of significant closures across the country, our promise to keep every branch open until at least 2028 is unique in the market. We’re delighted to make it even clearer.”

The real issue here is bank branch closures not the ads. In the financial crisis of 2008 some big banks came close to crashing the British economy, most notably Royal Bank of Scotland (now rebranded as NatWest.) It was bailed out at vast expense to taxpayers, leading to years of so-called government “austerity.”

Lloyds was suckered by Gordon Brown’s dying Labour government into buying Halifax, then independent, leading to huge losses for Lloyds shareholders. Its shares have still not recovered their full value.

Some might say that if such companies are deemed too big to fail – and hence deserving of taxpayer support – they should mind their manners when reducing services, in the service of extra profits they don’t need as the Bank Of England’s currently high interest rates pour money into their coffers.

Nationwide, you suspect, is winning this argument despite its slap on the wrists from the ASA.

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