Why ING Direct’s Human Billboards FAIL

Here is a piece of work from Leo Burnett, Italy called Bus. It was created last year. It has a number of experiential marketing experts raving about it. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it before reading why I think it is, well, a bit crap.


Well, now you’ve seen it, perhaps you’ll feel annoyed at me. I mean, this is cutting edge stuff isn’t it – strapping a client to the side of a bus so that they can sing about their online bank to passers by, stimulating word of mouth because that’s how ING’s branchless mesaage resonates..?

But look again. That guy taking a photo with his mobile phone, is he just a little bit poised, almost disinterested? The girl in the car, is she mildly amused in a slightly polished way? The shabby chic guy on the pushbike – now I know Italians are elegant, but we’re moving beyond convenient coincidence and good editing here arn’t we, all these televisual unconcerned people turning up? He doesn’t look even remotely annoyed or worried that Mr Bus is sticking his face into the traffic. These people, playing along with the sandwich-bus man – are nicely dressed up for their advert, which is why Leo Burnett have their campaign filed under TV on the Coloribus database.

You want to see how real people look when something surprising happens in the real world? Then see the Lynx video below. Now I know the Lynx ad is British and so perhaps there might be a few less elegant people around, but this is also authentic – blokes making an ass of themselves – and because of that it is more compelling.


The Lynx work isn’t made for TV of course, but Filmed for TV brand experiences also work best when they film real reactions. In the magazine this issue we will have an interview with an actor from the T-Mobile Heathrow advert. For all the rehersals, this was a live experience. ING Direct just isn’t.

So, you might argue, at least ING and Leo Burnett have created a live experience story for their brand. Well, yes they have, but it is so disingenuous. Once you get past the ‘clever’ idea, they have, in fact, focussed on making a TV advert to be talked about, and not made a TV advert that documents the beginning of the conversation in a living space. And because the film doesn’t feel authentic you don’t generate any real emotion and so much of the potential impact is lost. ING are saying they do word of mouth, but in fact they don’t trust that channel at all, they want to do TV where they stay in control of the message.

I bet, when you saw the video clip your first reaction was how did they get that past health and safety? if you did then you are seeing the ‘event’ unfold as a viewer rather than imagining what it must have been like to be there.

And that, euro for euro, vs a filmed real event, is a fail.

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