Wells Fargo Features a Lesbian Couple in Its First Big Campaign From BBDO

Bank follows the trail Honey Maid blazed a year ago

With the launch of a new campaign from BBDO, Wells Fargo is leaning into the advertising—and societal—trend of embracing same-sex couples.

A year after Droga5 featured a male couple with a baby in an ad for Honey Maid, the second largest U.S. bank by number of branches depicts two women practicing sign language before they meet the deaf girl they plan to adopt.

It's unclear at the beginning of the ad why the women, individually, are learning how to sign. That becomes apparent when, together, they meet the girl, and one of the women signs, "We're going to be your new mommies." 

The ad, which was directed by Lance Acord and edited by Exile's Matthew Murphy, ends with a female voice saying, "Everyone works hard for a reason. Working together, we can help you prepare financially for when two becomes three." The tagline remains, "Together we'll go far."

"Learning Sign Language" is the first of nine TV ads in a broader push that breaks Monday and runs throughout the year. The effort—the first big campaign since BBDO became lead creative agency last spring—also includes social media marketing and print, outdoor, digital and radio ads. Wells Fargo did not reveal the cost of the ads, but the bank spends about $175 million on media annually, according to Kantar Media.

Other TV ads tell the stories of small-business owners managing sales calls, a truck driver collecting momentos for his daughter and a retired woman taking her older friend to a hair salon. And as in "Sign Language," the characters are diverse. One small business, for example, is run by an Hispanic family and the retired woman is black. (Acento co-created the Hispanic ad with BBDO and BBDO, the other one.)

For Wells Fargo, the goal is to reflect the diversity of its customers and get beyond products and services to tell emotional stories that illustrate universal truths, according to chief marketing officer Jamie Moldafsky. The ad with the lesbian couple, for instance, captures emotions that any couple feels when adopting a child.

Moldafsky acknowledged the likehood of backlash for the ad's portrayal of a same-sex couple, but she noted that Wells Fargo is a longtime supporter of the LGBT community and, since 2009, has had a unit that specializes in financial advice for same-sex couples.

"We really felt that this is a great way to both represent the notion of family and adoption—which is obviously a very important part of our community and many of our customers' lives—and we do it in a way that felt very true to our perspective about diversity and inclusion," Moldafsky told Adweek.

"Sign Language" has been in the works since the fall and was tested at different stages of its development, from the initial concept to the produced ad, according to the CMO. And although the concept evolved during development—an earlier version revolved around an international adoption—the basic scenario of a lesbian couple adopting a child never changed. Also, to better reflect reality, BBDO cast a real lesbian couple and a girl who is actually deaf.

"We thought it was really important that it be very real and authentic and true," Moldafsky said.

Here's a look at some of the other new ads: