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BLACK beauty

So, the Lloyds Bank campaign with the horses.

Perfect example of everything good about modern advertising? Long-term brand building. Broad target. Distinctive asset. Emotional response. Purposey end-line.

Or everything bad about it? All emotion and no meaning. A black hole.

In the latest in the series, a mare looks after her foal during a journey across Britain's wild terrain. She sees them both safely across a deep river, but when they come to a frozen lake, it’s the foal who leads the way onto the ice.

The ad follows on from the previous three films.

First, it was ‘For Your Next Step’ in 2016, with a lone horse passing through hospital wards and school gates to the tune of ‘Mad World’.

Then in 2017 we had ‘New Dawn’, with a horse running through a history of industrial Britain, accompanied by ‘Praise You’.

Last year it was ‘The Running of the Horses’ and ‘You’re Not Alone’, with villagers gathering in wonder to see the spectacle of thirty horses running along a deserted beach in the early morning.

Each time the ending is the same, Lloyds Bank are ‘by your side’.

It’s a powerful idea. Use the strength of feeling people have towards animals, particularly beautiful ones like horses. In particular, use the sense of connection you feel with them. The freedom, the power, the companionship, the comfort.

At its heart the relationship is about mutual nurturance. You look after them and they look after you. The music’s even called ‘Look After You’.

That all sounds good, even in a minefield like post-Crash banking. Everyone wants their bank to look after their money, to keep it safe.

Some, I’m sure, also want their bank to look after them, particularly around big events - buying a home, getting married, redundancy, starting a business, paying for higher education, divorce, retirement, bereavement.

So Nurturance would be there on any finance Need Map, just like it is in insurance or energy switching or broadband. I don’t know how big it would be as a need but probably significant.

It also isn’t a territory other banks seem to be targeting. Barclays advocate ‘Taking control of your money’. NatWest are all about hard evidence and ‘We are what we do’. First Direct apologise to other banks for once again being ‘No.1 for overall service’.

So everyone has their position and Lloyds’ is ‘by your side’.

Odd phrase for a bank to use, though. It means to be close to someone, doesn’t it? To give them comfort or moral support. There’s even a romantic connotation.

All of which stretches the bank-horse analogy a bit thin. If you bank online, one bank is basically the same as any other. If your bank has just refused you an overdraft, you hate their guts. If they give you a mortgage, you’re relieved, not in love. If you read a story about massive bonuses in the city, you despise the lot of them. If the queue’s too big on a Friday lunchtime, you suffer in silence.

The defining characteristic with banking relationships is inertia. Most of us make a choice when we’re young and decades later we’re still living with it. So in that sense Lloyds is by the side of its customers but not in a particularly positive way. I certainly wouldn’t call it ‘loyalty’.

But what it does feel like is that Lloyds have started to fall in love with their own advertising. Initially the horse was there in the background, like a logo cantering through the ad.

Then the horse became the focus. Then he invited along all his mates.

Now the horse is the message. This new ad is saying something about how generations can learn from each other.

I might be missing something, but what the hell has that got to do with banking? That the pre-2008 generation of bankers have learnt the error of their ways from the new bunch? Is that a black horse I see flying past the window?

And what’s it got to do with Lloyds being ‘by your side’? All it says in the ad is “for every generation”. Well, you do kind of hope a bank is going to stick around.

Still it’s a lovely ad. Beautifully shot.

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