Ex-W+K Execs Welcome Finance Site to U.S. With Anxious Super Bowl Ad

Tony Revolori is a bit freaked out in Wealthsimple's regional spot

The rise of the robots is nigh … and a bunch of them want to manage our money.

Canadian robo-advisor Wealthsimple is preparing to launch in the U.S., and it’s doing it in style—with a regional Super Bowl ad.

Its announcement in the U.S. follows Sallie Krawcheck’s launch of Ellevest, a robo-advisory targeted to women. Like Ellevest, Wealthsimple separates itself from other finance sites by promising to take the opacity out of investing, leveraging a core company belief—that investing should be “easy to understand, easy to start, and easy to live with.”

The result is “Mad World.” Created by the marketer’s in-house team—former creatives from Wieden + Kennedy, with visual effects by The Mill, cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine and director Martin de Thurah (who gave us Michael Phelps’ “Rule Yourself” spot for Under Armour)—the ad doesn’t get too geeky about automated investing or secure online transactions. (W+K New York is handling media, including the Super Bowl buy.)

Instead, it revolves around a character played by Tony Revolori. If the sight of his face strikes you with inexplicable affection, maybe it’s because you remember him as Lobby Boy from Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. (We almost want to ask—did automated investing pay for this spot?)

“Mad World” kicks off with two sentences from on high: “Money is important. Saving for the future is important.” Revolori is walking, and though we don’t know much about him, he’s pretty obviously panicked about something.

Over the course of his day, Revolori encounters a number of friends and colleagues who all seem to have the secret to investing.

“Buy low … sell high,” a buddy advises him in confidence.

“What does that mean?” Revolori asks.

The more people weigh in, the less clear things get. And as the advice multiplies, blurring into a meaningless swarm of buzzwords, Revolori gets more dramatically anxious, at one point running from an invisible foe; at another, seeking solace in a bathtub, only to be violently shaken awake by yet another voice.

“Investing is complicated,” the ad concludes. “We make it simple.” Alongside this, the Wealthsimple site appears on a laptop, with a cutesy little image that makes money management look like child’s play.

That super-simple interface is as much part of Wealthsimple’s message as “Mad World.” Geared toward reducing stress with friendly design, the company won a Webby last year for Best Financial Services/Banking website. (The brand worked with Swedish design company Doberman and developers Varvet, and there’s some 3-D animation from Man Vs Machine.)

"Investing is complicated. We make it simple," the ad concludes.

We’re not in much of a position to talk about which robo-advisory anybody should trust their money with. But like Ellevest, Wealthsimple makes the somewhat scary notion of automated investing attractive by focusing on a much larger idea: Most people don’t get a financial education, but they do get a lot of conflicting advice.

Technical investing books, and volatile figures like P/E ratios, can feel obscure for an already busy mind. Like Revolori, most of us are just trying to get through life without making an irreparable mistake, and money management’s almost deliberate lack of clarity raises the stakes—partly because, at our worst, we worry we’ll die penniless and alone, but also because our own lack of competence scares us.

“Mad World” ran in Canada earlier this month. This :60 version will also air in Canada during the Super Bowl, as well as in three U.S. markets—Boston, Seattle and Austin, Texas—where Wealthsimple also plans to roll out local activations and supporting creative.

Meanwhile, Wealthsimple’s U.S.-focused content site will try making financial education as tear-free as reading any other lifestyle rag. Led by ex-editorial director Devin Friedman of GQ, its “Money Diaries” section interviews people like Kylie Jenner and Nick Thorburn of the Unicorns, while “Ms. Etiquette” sports articles on topics like why handbags are like penny stocks … and at what age you should stop asking your parents for money.