Gruen on Westpac: 'There’s very little of this going on these days'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 3 October 2019
Westpac Campaign

The panel of ABC's Gruen has lauded the latest series of campaigns from Westpac, titled Help.

PWC chief creative officer Russel Howcroft called it a "beautiful commercial".

The focus of the conversation around the campaign was centred on the first TV ad of the series, which showed a young family going through the process of separation. It was created for Westpac by DDB Sydney. 

Showing the trials and tribulations of a young boy, his mother and father, Howcroft said the commercial was a "to an old style of advertising" and that "there was very little of it going on these days".

"It’s great marketing. Because there are, when life changes as dramatically as that, there is a moment that you’ll have the opportunity to get someone as a new customer," Howcroft said. 

"It’s a beautiful, beautiful commercial. It’s subtly done, it’s beautifully done. There’s unbelievable empathy in it. And for us to be able to watch a long-form TV commercial is a joy." 

Outgoing One Green Bean boss Claire Salvetti agreed, praising the casting, soundtrack and execution. 

However, Salvetti questioned the intentions of Westpac and as to whether the bank, which had launched this campaign as its first following the Royal Commission into the banking sector, had "permission to speak" on the sensitive subject matter. 

"Strategically, I think they have a great opportunity. One in three Australian marriages end these days so you have a captive audience, as gross as it sounds, that you can speak to. What you need to think about – do they have permission to speak in this area," she said.

"On their website, they have a separation hub that has some really good tools and things that people can access if they are going through a complex, distressing separation situation.

"The question I have is that does the separation sit there because it genuinely helps people going through separation or is it there cosmetically so they can tell the story in the ad?"

Former R/GA VP managing director Rebecca Bezzina, who was on the panel for the first time, pointed to the lack of dialogue as the strongest facet in the ad, adding it was what made it authentic.

She said what was interesting is that the lack of conversation, which was instead compensated for by emotional music, forced viewers to "sit in the pain" and that Westpac had done everything it could to make sure it was done with the correct level of subtilty.

"They let you sit in that pain – if you’ve ever been through it or you have ever witnessed it or had a shitty childhood – seeing it through the son’s eyes," Bezzina says.

"As a marketer, it’s really hard to be subtle. You want to yell from the rooftops. You want to do comparative advertising. You want to do a deal. You want to do that happy customer vibe. And it’s really hard to be subtle.

"And Westpac has done everything they can to be subtle in this ad and that’s what makes it so beautiful."

AdNews previously spoke with Westpac and the agency behind the campaign DDB Sydney to find out more about how the ad came about and what impact it had on the perception of the bank following the Royal Commission.

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