“So I Moved Some Things Around and Found You $1,500 a Year” WTF ScotiaBank

WTF Scotiabank

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I usually keep this channel family-friendly, but Scotiabank’s recent advertisements have me pretty worked up. So like my boy Phil Dunphy says – “Why The Face” Scotiabank?

It was bad enough when they decided their slogan was going to be “You’re richer than you think”. Given that Canadians are going more and more in debt as a percentage of household income every time they report the numbers, I think this is demonstrably false. I can understand how a bank might be able to spin things a little bit to make it sort of sound logical though.

I mean, it’s possible that a person might not realize how little growth their investments are seeing given the insanely high MER fees that Canada’s major banks charge on their in-house mutual funds – so maybe the slogan is referring to the fact that if people simply switched out of those retirement investment options, they would in fact be richer than they previously thought.

Now, I’ve got nothing particular against Scotiabank. I think they have a great credit card option for Canadian students (which I’ll explain more about soon). They operate one of Canada’s better online banking options in Tangerine (although in light of recent comments on our review page, I’m starting to rethink that assessment). They seem to do some cool stuff with sponsoring youth sports and pay to put their name on some other worthwhile charity/non-profit stuff.

Their most recent commercial though left me stunned, before breaking up into laughter. I don’t mean that in a Millennial I-have-to-type-LOL-at-the-end-of-every-sentence kind of way. I mean that I physically could not hold back from expressing the comedic ridiculousness of the following new advertisement from SB.

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Ok, so where to start…

1) Kind of dirty to bring family bonding into this type of situation (re: piling up debt as a young person), but I’m willing to overlook that advertising strategy – all other things being equal – because it’s so common.

2) A nervous young man who looks to be in the 25-30 range comes to you for advice, and you quickly tell him not to save money gradually for a thoughtful gift by budgeting or explaining the sacrifices he might have to make in order to enjoy said gift. Instead, you basically tell him to go for it immediately. Nice problem solving there SB.

3) This is where it gets really good. The following quote is gold: “So I moved some things around, and saved you $1,500 a year.” Let me get this straight… What exactly did you move around? This young fella still has student loans from a private bank (not government student loans – which would be more advantageous for a variety of reasons), what assets did he have to “move around”?!! Did you open up a line of credit for him? Did you provide him with a new credit card? That would explain how $1,500 might fall from the heavens, but it isn’t exactly “saving $1,500 a year”.

4) Our son-of-the-year candidate is understandably happy about the revelation that he is – wait for it – Richer Than He Thinks, but he should actually be kind of upset. Where was he paying $1,500 before, that he suddenly no longer has to pay? This nice lady managed to get him $1,500 in like 7.2 seconds, she couldn’t have done that before?! Furthermore, why stop there? If that’s what you can find in a few key taps, maybe we had better sit down and have a deeper look at things.

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5) “Let us help you, becoming financially new and improved,” the friendly neighborhood narrator tells us, as the happy father cranks the tunes and they drive into the mountains. He is just so happy to be enjoying his son’s increased debt load. What a great message to be sending to Canadian parents everywhere: If your child is a good one, expect them to borrow money in order to give you the birthday present of your dreams. Forget the student loans, forget the terrible current job market for Canadian youth, forget saving for a down payment, and forget starting your retirement savings.

“It’s mooore than a feeeeeling!”

Come on SB, you should be better than this. I realize that bank commercials have to present a positive and “sunny ways” side to banking, but this is too far. The sad reality is that while I (and probably many of you financial blog readers) find this ad absurd to point of humour, many Canadians do not have the financial education necessary to realize how crazy this stuff is. Asking a financial institution to make you richer than you think, or to find you $1,500 is illogical, but an attractive siren song to bring in new customers. With all the resources that SB has at their disposal, I’d like to challenge them to use their advertising budget to push great stuff like this Preet Banerjee snippet that their Tangerine arm put together:

I know that making TFSAs as cool as driving into the mountains with your old man isn’t easy, but I’m sure with all the marketing geniuses you have hanging around you could figure it out SB!


Kyle is a high school humanities teacher by day, and freelance personal finance author by night. He has been published in academic journals, and has also co-authored the book "More Money for Beer and Textbooks". In his free time Kyle likes to limp up and down a basketball court and pretend to be a tough guy in a boxing ring.

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