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.

(Read more inside)

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),

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 500 KB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png txt doc xls pdf ppt pps odt ods odp wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 dir dcr ogg m4v.
claymore's picture

Oh, where do I begin...

silver3's picture

Damn. Platform much campaigncritic?

You seem to enjoy ranting a lot about your hatred of the work, but do
little to offer any remedies, which is what I think a "Ad Consulter" firm
might at least try and do.

I bet you were so proud of this post on your blog, you just couldn't make
a ham sandwich without knowing the rest of the ad community might
surely read it.

Nice overused blog template by the way. Your pioneering consulting,
apparently monopolizes all of your time, that you couldn 't create
anything new digitally.

DDB inherited the barbarian executions all the way back from now
defunct D'arcy. They also probably inherited the mandate on the brief
to use them in the spot somehow. It would be like if you won an
account with the "Can you hear me now?" guy, or Jared.

I smell transition campaign, to ween Cap 1 off of barbarians. You can't
honestly think Scarpelli would keep the business if he couldn't do
good work for them?

LeslieBAP's picture

Funny, everyone I know who is NOT in the biz loves the Pillagers spots. They remember them AND remember that they are Capitol One spots. Generally, the David Spade ones are loathed, mostly, though there seems to be some weird enjoyment of the guy who screams like a girl. I think people just hate David Spade.

The point is that the barbarian/pillager spots appear to be effective.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Lowly consumer here. I like and remember all of the capital one spots--the pillagers doing other jobs is pretty damn funny. David Spade's ads--irritating as he is--are also pretty clear in my mind. ("Bright yellow shirt" is a local fave.)

Having said all that, when their envelops arrive asking for my business (and I get about 4-5 a week from Capital One), they get tossed, unopened.

So: memorable? Yes. Effective? Not for getting my business.

kidsleepy's picture

remember too, everyone not in advertising likes the aflac duck. but the public do. boy do they ever.

That means, blog ranting aside, there's no accounting for taste or effectiveness. and you know that crap has been focus-tested to death, i'm sure.

does that make me cheer capital one's campaign? hell no. however, they have at least one thing going for them-- the idea that, if everyone is zigging, you zag to stand out.

personally, i'm working on a client in the financial category that also subscribes to this theory-- but remember, these are financial people. FINANCIAL people. they are inherently boring. they are the most over analytical bunch of f@*$-heads I have ever had this misfortune of dealing with.

so for, my client, as well as cap one folks-- this david spade thing stands out from master card's warm and fuzzy and oh so tired greeting card campaign, or american expresses stuff, or citibank's "smart-funny" executions or whatever else.

again, i didnt' say i liked the stuff-- just that is strategically ownable. and my takeaway is that i dont' get hit with high fees. and they haven't changed that message at all, david spade or the other campaign.

it just sucks that something so stupid is actually working. but remember again guys-- this is a t.v. commercial we're talking about. not Gravity's Rainbow.

and for the record, they aren't barbarians. they're visigoths.

Adland is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by donating via Liberapay, the Paypal button here

or by using our amazon affiliate links to buy yourself an ad book or something else nice.