So, with a sense of inevitability I’m here to name Halifax as the most despised adverts of 2010, running away with over one fifth of the vote in the stakes.
These adverts certainly annoyed me – the Ice Ice Baby one particularly drove me to turn the television off on at least one occasion – but they seemed to drive AdTurds readers to frothing, spasming apoplexy. Some of the keyword queries and comments were actually chilling to behold.
It’s easy to see why these ads have irritated people so. Their very raison d’etre is to annoy anyone who sees or hears them. You know it. They know that you know it. You know that they know that you know it. It’s like a restless tween asking you the same question over and over again simply to get on your wick.
Halifax is pretty much alone in the banking industry in deploying these tactics in its advertising, which have been widely adopted by price comparison sites; a kind of carpet-bombing of your consciousness with concentrated naff. These weapons are not laser-guided, they have no precision. They are the advertising equivalent of daisy cutters and there will be collateral damage.
The point of these adverts, certainly for price-comparison sites, is simply to embed a name and impression in your mind so that when you need to insure your car those Go Compares and meerkats and Omid Djalilis are right at the front of your mind. There’s little customer loyalty in these most volatile of markets or much to differentiate one offering from another, which is why they must resort to pester power when it comes to putting their brands out there.
Banks have normally eschewed these tactics, with most preferring to put themselves over as rather stuffy, slightly dour but eminently trustworthy places to keep your hard-earned: think of the old-fashioned image of the stuffed shirt bank manager. NatWest sticks out in my mind as attempting to engender some sort of affection among potential customers with ads decrying the transition of bank buildings into trendy winebars and its recent – rather silly – customer charter adverts.
TSB liked to be the bank that said yes; Lloyds had its black horse; Santander has Wild Beasts and Lewis Hamilton; HSBC has those Gambon-voiced efforts that place it firmly as a global banking behemoth, which it is.
But Halifax has thrown off any attempt to make it look respectable, trustworthy, serious or even worthy of affection. It’s going out of its way to annoy customers and potentials alike; displaying its staff as blithering twats and incompetents as if they were working in a shit leisure centre in a sitcom.
Clearly Halifax thinks this works as they’ve been ploughing this furrow since they launched Howard Brown onto an unsuspecting world a decade ago.
What’s even more remarkable about Halifax’s effort to place it as the Ryanair of the banking sector is that, a couple of years ago as part of HBOS, it nearly went down completely partly due to mind-boggling exposure to its own incautious lending, taking the rest of the UK banking sector and the national economy with it. At one point, no-one knew whether cash machines across the UK would dispense any money come the following Monday. A shotgun marriage to Lloyds followed, along with tens of billions of public money.
How has Halifax – admittedly only part of what’s now an enormous toxic-bank clusterfuck – responded to nearly destroying, erm, money? Not with a mea culpa, or an element of contrition notable in things like NatWest’s ‘customer charter’ adverts but with its most annoying advert yet.
This is our reward for bailing out the banking sector. Something that’s beamed into your home on a daily basis with the express intention of putting you in a bad mood. The alternative to saving the banks may have been unthinkable, but the idea of societal apocalypse seems almost preferable when viewing the Halifax adverts.
Worst advert of 2010 – results and analysis
Halifax ran away with it in the end, but it looked like an equal three-way tie for a while, with Go Compare and Iceland performing strongly until the last week of voting. WeBuyAnyCar made a strong late surge too.
If this were any kind of serious attempt to find the most hated ad of the year, it would require some effort to measure the frequency of the ads and peoples’ exposure to it through scheduling times – and determining the channels on which they were broadcast.
As it is we can probably afford slightly more bile towards some of the more obscure ads as, presumably, they were much less viewed than others.
The thing of it is, the results for the top four – if not a majority of the adverts featured here – will be seen as a positive for the brands the advertise, as they’re exclusively of the ‘exposure through annoyance’ genre. By voting for them, you’ve validated them. Sucks, huh?
‘Other’ answers suggested by readers included the following:
Sainsbury’s double points
The Times online