Union Bank Offers Online Parts for Build-Your-Own TV Ads

In a twist on typical online crowdsourcing, Union Bank is giving people 27 components of a broadcast TV ad to mix and match in order to build their own commercials. The custom ads are made and displayed on the branded site bankingbydesign.com. Users vote on their favorites, and the two to three most popular mashup spots will air on TV in January.

This “Commercial by Design” effort is the work of the bank’s agency Eleven and production house B-Reel. The campaign promotes the bank’s new “Banking by Design” program, which unbundles the traditional checking account and allows you to choose among multiple checking services to build your own custom account. You piece together your new account online, but you must contact a bank branch to actually open the account, according to a Union Bank rep. Next year the entire transaction can be done online.

Unlike many homegrown user-generated ad projects, the Union Bank work is broadcast quality with a single narrator. The kitschy humor comes from offbeat cameos and settings, such as a rock star, a unicorn, baby chicks and a retro bachelor pad. Along with shuffling around the filmed elements, amateur ad-makers can also insert a personal photo into the custom ad.

“Our target audience is mostly women and especially Moms. They are the ones who open new checking accounts,” said Mike McKay, chief creative officer at Eleven. “Creating these funny ads are something they can enjoy doing with their kids. And they can put the face of their child in the commercial in hopes the ad will appear on TV,” he said.

The launch campaign broke in early November. Print, online and radio ads, plus Facebook. Twitter and word-of-mouth are helping drive consumers to make their own commercials or vote for others, said Maha Madain, Union Bank svp. Within the first two weeks, about 210 commercials had been crafted, with a handful getting almost 100 votes each.

The ad-making contest ends on Dec. 31, but the ad generation program will continue well into 2013, with plans that “the crowdsourced ads on TV will drive even more people to try their hand at building an ad online,” said McKay.

This effort is unlike other crowdsourced ad contests in which brands like Doritos have asked people to turn on their web cam and film something from scratch. “By asking people just to click on options, we are making it is easier for more of our audience to get involved,” said McKay.

But at the same time, it is not the kind of traditional storytelling that TV advertising is known for. “Straightforward storytelling is passive engagement,” he said. “This is different. People are discovering the story through their interaction with the brand. By giving them an activity that’s fun to do and something worth sharing we are going beyond” simply telling a story, noted McKay.

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