Skip the Lattes, and the Gym: A Sassy Tween Offers Money Tips in Australian Bank Ads

'Sunny's Truth Bombs' aim to offer fun, simple advice

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It’s mortifying enough to get lectured by a child about your drunken-sailor, free-spending ways, but it’s even worse if the kid could be right.

Sunny, a truth-telling tween with a lethal side-eye, was first introduced in a music video-themed ad for Australia’s Suncorp bank in April. She’s back for the summer, and she’s become a statistics-spouting, belt-tightening ambassador to the Aussie public.

And though she’s arguably super cute, she’s also surprisingly polarizing, according to online feedback. (Read on!)

In the newest round of commercials, Sunny points out that less than 50 percent of her countrymen are homeowners. If they’d just skipped all those morning lattes, they could’ve each saved $200 a month, or a grand total of $4,800 a year per couple consuming double the caffeine. That cash could’ve gone toward a house or other dream purchase.

Shelling out 16.8 percent of weekly income on transportation? That’s whack, says the pig-tailed Sunny, especially since so many people are paying for gym memberships they’re not using. Get on a bike, she says, and kill two birds.

According to Sunny, Australians spend $1,800 a year on clothes and $30,000 on average for a wedding, while 35 percent of women and 24 percent of men cop to making frequent impulse buys. Maybe consider waiting until items are on sale, she suggests.

Sunny’s “truth bombs,” as the campaign calls them, are intended to nudge people to “give up a little” in the short term so they can invest in more meaningful things down the road, which is fairly standard money management advice.

The campaign (tagline: Spend better, save better, dream bigger) comes from Publicis as a follow-up to its “Money with Sunny” spot from the spring that used the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hip-hop song, “Thrift Shop” as its soundtrack.

The catchy hit remains for the new round of ads as Sunny lays down financial tough love, sometimes while popping a handstand.

Perhaps predictably, not everyone is thrilled with the message or the delivery. Commenters on Aussie media and marketing site Mumbrella called the campaign “tone deaf and condescending,” with little insight into the tough employment and housing situation faced by Millennials and Gen Z.

“My grandmother who walked uphill to school BOTH ways wrote the script for this,” one critic said. “It’s definitely a bomb but not a truth bomb showing an unsophisticated understanding of the current Australian economy and housing market.”

And opinions are mixed on the spokeskid, with one commenter on the new work dubbing her “precocious, aggressive and over the top.” (In fact, the critics stretch back to her spring debut, when some viewers accused the campaign of being “irritating” and glorifying theft with a scene that showed Sunny finding a $20 dollar bill on the street, and in a short version of the ad, appearing to pocket it).

Simone Waugh, managing director at Publicis in Brisbane, fired back. She said the latest round of barbs are coming from “industry people who love being negative towards other people’s work” and that consumer reaction and results are a “more accurate read and both are tracking very positively.”

The agency’s research found that money is the top concern for Australians today, causing “inertia, pessimism and lost hope,” Waugh said in an email.

That led the agency to try to “turn anxiety into optimism by helping with simple steps, action and utility/tools to help Australians spend better, save better and make financial well-being a reality.”

Watch the ads here and decide for yourself if the moppet, and the campaign, has a point.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.