by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) FNB’s latest TVC, from Grid Worldwide and director Greg Gray of Velocity Films, tells the story that the whole of South Africa needs to hear right now. No one’s coming to save us. We have to help ourselves.

What’s the difference between independence and dependence? Aristotle summed it up best when he succinctly said: “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.” As an entrepreneur, I appreciate that there’s something truly satisfying, and confidence-building out of creating an organisation, a project or a hobby that brings you meaning and security. There’s no finer feeling than being the captain of your own ship, so to speak.

Self-mastery and independence define the hero/ine’s journey. It’s the pioneer’s adventure into the unknown to secure life and sustenance. It’s an archetypal need that is as old as humanity. It’s noble and it’s worthy because it speaks to the very best part of what it means to be alive and on this human exploration called life.

Which brings me to the Ad of the Week for this week — a remarkable piece of video that speaks to the very essence of life and living, rooted in the philosophy of independence. It is First National Bank’s new campaign: “What is the Future of Help?

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According to FNB, this new campaign promotes the ownership of the concept of “help” by depicting people who are empowered to realise their dreams and take control of their lives by ‘helping themselves’.

“At FNB, we want to ensure that we resonate with our customers on their journey through life at an emotional level, and leave them feeling uniquely empowered to help themselves in all areas of their lives, not just in banking. It is a departure from conventional banking campaigns and it is relevant across the continent,” says FNB chief marketing officer, Faye Mfikwe.

The bank’s marketing department says that the central message of the campaign is that “the future of help” is “to help people to help themselves”. The storyline depicts ordinary people working together in a series of inspiring, empowering scenes, in an aim to make an emotional connection with the viewer.

The symbol of a hand is used extensively as a visual device throughout the ad. The first image is of a prosthetic hand being manipulated. Next is a spinning basketball being balanced on the end of a finger. Then there’s a young boxer’s hand being taped up. The story is driven throughout by a narrator.

“What is the future of help?” the voiceover asks, and answers: “It’s to help people help themselves. Help is the most-powerful force known to man.”

The montage cuts to a young woman having her hearing aid switched on for the first time. “We can help people find the great in themselves. The passion. The drive,” the narrator continues, over further images of the young girl whose prosthetic hand was seen earlier, the young boxer, the basketball player, and a public speaker speaking passionately to a crowd.

In all these scenes, hands feature, either doing something or gesturing.

More scenes add to the montage to support the narration, which continues: “Help unleash their true power. Help them find their true potential. Help them discover their true desires.” These scenes include people in a mini-factory testing out a drone, a young soccer player looking at a cabinet of trophies, a motor-scooter shop called “Wheelpit” — and the lights flicker to leave only to leave the H, E, L and P of the sign.

The narration, “Help release the magic inside”, is supported by a scene at a rock concert, and young boxers being trained in a gym.

“Help them stretch. Help them grow,” the voiceover continues, with various scenes, including dancers, young acrobats on a beach, and finally back to the woman with the hearing aid. Perhaps she’s had a cochlear implant, because this is clearly an emotional moment for her: a tear rolls down her cheek.

Helping hands also feature in the following scenes, of a boxer knocking down his opponent, then helping him up, and a basketball player, who has fallen down, being helped up by his opponent.

“We all have greatness within,” the narrator says, :waiting to be unleashed. And sometimes all it takes is a little bit of help.” The various scenes in the montage reach their respective conclusions: the speaker receives applause; the young girl drops a ball from her prosthetic hand into her other hand; a beach acrobat does a flick-flack across the sand.

The voiceover concludes: “That’s why we help people, help themselves, help the world. Because a little help goes a long, long way.”

The final screen concludes with the FNB slogan: “How can we help you?”

Explains Mfikwe, “FNB is defining what ‘help’ means, in today’s culture and in the society we live in. We are focusing on people, because we understand that 21st-century brands fit in with their customers’ lifestyles, connecting with them in two-way conversations. We empower our customers to own their interactions with FNB and we want them to get the best out of the relationship. We have built solid platforms using innovative technologies to facilitate meaningful interactions.”

This isn’t just talk. FNB has earned a reputation for winning local and global awards for its products, services and technologies. By way of example, FNB’s banking app won the Best Mobile System/Service Initiative in London at the international Banking Technology Awards of 2016, and FNB Digital Channels were elected as the best in the country in the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index. Importantly, the bank was chosen as the world’s fourth most-powerful in the Brand Finance’s Banking 500 Report for 2017.

“It is all about removing obstacles or ‘friction’ from the lives of FNB customers through the services and products that we provide. FNB is looking at the entire customer journey, from personal to business, and seeing where we can help customers by connecting them to the most helpful and relevant solutions and services,” Mfikwe adds.

In a country with a massive debt problem, sending a strong message of independence into the market is hugely positive. It tells us all that we all need to build ourselves and build our country together — clearly, nobody else is going to do this for us. Backing this up with the best digital services, and award-winning products that create relevance and connect, is massive. Ensuring that meaningful customer focus is your key priority in a market that’s continually opening to new competition is visionary.


Agency: Grid Worldwide
Chief creative officer: Nathan Reddy
Copywriter: Peter Souter
Creative director: Kassie Naidoo
Strategist: Nikki Erasmus
Account director: Jessica Wilkins
Agency producer: Caz Friedman
Production company: Velocity Films
Director: Greg Gray
Production house producer: Helena Woodfine
DOP: Paul Gilpin
Post-production company: Deliverance Post Production
Editor: Ricky Boyd at Deliverance
Online/grade: David Oosthuizen at Deliverance
Sound mix: Stephen Webster at The Workroom
Music: ‘Believing’ by Brolin, courtesy of Madplanet

Credits added 27 June 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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One reply on “Ad of the Week: FNB’s strong message of independence to SA”

  1. The problem with the ‘Help or Service mantra that the bank is pushing is the coal face does not carry it through which makes the adverts a LIE!

    Try and phone FNB, you faced with a myriad of frustrations, stupid, yes stupid automated system that is frustrating to deal with at the best of times. If you get through to a correct section, inevitably it’s the wrong one, or the person answering can’t help you are either left hanging or worse sent to yet another clueless individual that acts as if they doing you a favour. Customer service, well you often don’t feel like one.

    Most banks are the same. There is little or zero notice of the hours you waste sometimes at the bank, which cost you money, FNB staff arrive and go home, their cheque arrives at the end of the month – we, are not so lucky. We have to work for our money!

    In truth a bank advert is a lie because they are a business you want your money and as a customer, you are part of the transaction – Nothing NFB does make you feel valued and adverts are optimistical insulting.

    Advertising awards are what you award yourself, much the way newspaper award themselves ‘accolades’ but in truth no-one asks the customers.

    Banks are a necessary evil – it would honest if you admitted this instead of false advertising.

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