Capital One: No Credit

Let's just get to the point: Capital One's credit card advertising is annoying, hard to follow and stupid. It quite frankly breaks a few of the most basic rules about advertising any product, let alone something as complicated or, these days, downright scary as handling a credit card.

One: don't go so afar afield from the point at hand that you lose the hook on what your product really is. Capital One's ads for their credit cards do just this: they somehow equate credit card service charges with barbarians (they have tried others in this series, but they take this one bad step further). "Credit card charges are like barbarians attacking you every time you use them." (Not barbarians—credit cards.) Sure.

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But then, they make another huge mistake. They have decided that the audience is so interested in their little joke that they will understand when the barbarians have to get other jobs because they aren't of any use anymore (bank fees—not barbarians. Or is it…?).

They have broken a key rule in any advertising: You are not entertainment, you are an interruption. You must prove yourself worthy of being heard by offering something solid on which to base an opinion of the product advertised. Then, if you can be funny, all the better (just make sure it's really funny).

The second mistake Capital One makes in their advertising is made everyday in virtually every category of advertising when people run out of things to say about their product: they spend a good 90 percent of their time not talking about what they do right, but what the competition does wrong. In this case, it's having the other credit card providers screaming “No!” every time anyone asks for service. This just doesn't happen. It is annoying to hear someone (in this case, comedian David Spade) be rude. The idea is so hard to work with; the jokes no longer make any sense. People don't see them as Capital One ads, but as David Spade ads (he even did a skit on Saturday Night Live admitting as much).

Guys, guys, guys. It's your product. Shouldn't you spend some time talking about it? Credit cards are something that make a lot of people break out in a cold sweat. Miss a payment by five hours, and your interest rate doubles. Someone's trying to steal your identity (that's what the credit card ads say, anyway). And Capital One's customers are supposed to laugh about a barbarian finding a job?

You might have a fine product there. Let people know and understand what it is. And if you're going to be funny, be funny. Your barbarians and David Spade, at least in this context, are not funny. You are laughing at your own little jokes. Stop it.

So, who is doing it right? Well, CitiBank is doing an interesting little bit about identity theft, the ones where the person is speaking with the voice and the mannerisms of the thief. Still, two problems: banking groups are saying what they are showing isn't identity theft; it's credit card fraud. Also—the bigger problem—no one seems to remember that the ads are for CitiBank. Right now, that's as close to a positive comment as there is. Work needs to be done here.

See the commercials: Capital One - Pillagers - New Jobs - Garth, Capital One - Pillagers - New Jobs - Ivan Jr. and Capital One - Pillagers - New Jobs - Marty .
Citibank: Citi - Phyllis J. , Citi - Richard P , Citi - Helen D , Citi - Bruce L ,Citi - Eric N./Plastic Surgery, Citi - Identity Theft Montage, Citi Sandra T. (Geek), Citi Ruth F. (Sweet new Pickup) Citi - Jake B (leather bustier),

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    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    Sep 21, 2005

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