by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Investec, Aqua and Greg Gray of Velocity Films reach out to the ‘me’ generation with a cyber-essay that celebrates individualism, and astutely positions the private bank as the brand with the human touch.

In an age of internationalism, when some of the world’s biggest banking brands compete for top end clients, how may financial brands differentiate themselves? In an age when artificial intelligence is recreating banking products, and big data is moving marketing campaigns, surely discerning customers long for that human connection?

We’ve all had the experience of being treated like a number — when an organisation grows so big it ceases to see us as individuals, but instead we’re a data set. As the owner of a company that deals in data collection and analysis, this is something that I’ve become acutely aware of. Yes, data and statistics are critical in market to evaluate trends or to determine the efficacy of advertising campaigns. Data is useful to try and understand consumer behaviour but, when it comes to customer service in private banking, individual and highly personalised connections are everything. The human touch that makes us feel seen and visible is what sets the top brands apart from the ‘also rans’.

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Investec plugs into this zeitgeist — this craving for visibility in a data-driven world — with its latest TV commercial, part of the integrated #MoreThanData campaign across print, cinema, digital and social media channels. The beautifully crafted black-and-white narrative begins with the question, “When did you become just a number?” The 60s-television commercial ends with the statement, “Where others see you as the sum of data, we see you.” This is a story told by an artificial intelligence — a being made up of data, about what it means to make a human connection.

The ad starts with a close-up of a face on a grey-black background, speaking directly to camera. This character, a man in his 20s with a stubbly beard, asks the question, “When did you become just a number?” The camera cuts in to a much-tighter shot, and now we see that the man’s skin is made of digital points, and connections that map his face in 3D. He asks, “When were you classified as only ones and zeros?”

In the middle of the next shot, the male face ‘glitches’ halfway through the sentence, morphing into a female face and voice, who asks: “When did statistics start speaking for you?” The visual effects are disturbingly brilliant and have the effect of making one want to look even more closely at this ad.

When the faces morph from one actor to the next, the visual effect is a cross between a digital glitch and a quick transition. In a world where so many commercials become wall paper, this is attention-grabbing. The faces are perfectly aligned, so the eyes and mouth match up, creating an eerie effect. This is an ad that demands to be seen.

There is also a subtle but audible glitch on the soundtrack, as the transition happens. It’s not over-the-top; just enough to make the effect work convincingly. The continuation of the commentary — a series of strong voices — uses several different faces, in rapid succession, and the voices overlapping with precision.

Suddenly, the camera zooms into an eye, and then travels through a digital landscape, settling on two strands of DNA that divide and recombine. The animation is consistent with the digital feel of the faces. This then represents the symbolism of individuality in the building blocks of life. It works on several levels: a person’s eye is often thought of as “the window to the soul”, while DNA is all about the genetic code that provides each individual with their unique traits. The animation is carried by the copy: “When you’re more than algorithms, when data capture doesn’t capture who you really are.” The sequence returns to the varying faces, with the copy, “When a human voice is all you’re looking for — with empathy that’s real, not electronic.”

Highly contested market

The ultimate message of this campaign? ‘Data can never define you.’ The faces morph at an increasing tempo towards the end of the film, while the copy reads: “And where I’m just an average of data, you won’t ever be.” The sequence ends with the same face that leads the commercial but the face disintegrates in a cloud of particles to reveal the slogan, “Where others see you as the sum of data, we see you.”

Private banking is a highly contested market. Local and international brands compete at the highest level for a sought-after prize — a moneyed market that is discerning and wants the best. There is only so much financial brands can do to differentiate product; beyond that, everything is about the human connection and which brand manages this best.

Investec first made a name for itself in this market because of its unparalleled private banking service. It was a breakthrough brand that distinguished itself with a superior product offering. In an era when banks will increasingly use big data and artificial intelligence to reach customers, Investec is cleverly setting itself apart by treating humans as humans.


Ad agency: Aqua
Executive creative director: Theo Ferreira
Creative director: Andrew Shaw
Art director: Ernst van der Merwe, Martjie Louw
Copywriters: James Armstrong, Cameron Dalton
Strategist: Amy Ford
Client service director: Tanya Fialkov
Project manager: Pascale Oswald
TV producer: Lee-Ann Booysen
Production company: Velocity Films
Director: Greg Gray
Executive producers: Helena Woodfine, Karen Kloppers
Producers: Helena Woodfine, Helmke Möller
DoP: Paul Gilpin
Post production online: Deliverance Post Productions
Editor: Ricky Boyd
Visual effects & post production offline: Glassworks, London
VFX supervisor: Duncan Malcolm
2D artists: Mark Holman-Harris, Leanne Pletersky, Caroline Pires
3D artists: Alastair Hearsum, Matt Fletcher, Julian Johnson, Gil Weiss
Colourist: Daniel de Vue
Producer: Duncan Cook
Music/composer/sound: Mad Planet

Credits last updated at 10.10am on 6 March 2017.


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at

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2 replies on “Ad of the Week: The human connection”

  1. I was directed here by Investec (facebook). I just want to say great work to all those involved in this project. I’m a young film student from South Africa, I may not know that much about pro-filmmaking BUT, I know this inspires me. Brilliant concept and execution. It’ll be an honour to work with any/all of the team members involved someday :)

    I pray you all get to create many more AMAZING works.

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