Ally Bank “Pony”

Dating back to the days of Brand X, advertising has always been adept at depicting bad guys. A campaign by BBH New York for Ally Bank — the newly named offshoot of GMAC Financial Services — displays this skill as it shows a bad banker subjecting little kids to the sort of shifty treatment banks routinely mete out to their customers. Viewers will nod in agreement as one spot shows the banker letting a kid play with a great toy truck — but only for a moment, since, as fine print on the truck explains, it’s a “limited-time offer only.” In the spot shown here, one girl gets a little toy pony while another gets a real live pony. Why didn’t the first girl get a real pony, too? “You didn’t ask,” Bad Banker curtly explains. The idea is to convey that Ally Bank, unlike its competitors, “alerts you when your money could be working harder and earning more.” That’s potentially a useful feature (leaving aside the fact that lots of people lost lots of money in the past year through efforts to make their money “work harder”). The problem, typical of ads that focus on a villain, is that the positive message about Ally is far less vivid than the negative message about other banks. The disappointed face of the girl who got the dinky little toy pony is a memorably forceful image, after all. A voiceover’s allusion to Ally’s helpful services can hardly compete with it for our attention.  –Mark Dolliver