‘Firstdirect is like the platypus of banks, a little bit different’. This is correct, and the ad can be considered a televisual success.

However, online, apart from a well-deployed and anonymous teaser video, the campaign’s lack of fecundity is its main similarity with the platypus. 

I’ve had a little look at this curate’s egg of a campaign, with some good and bad bits revealed.

The adverts: right for TV, but not for online?

I have to whack it on the table, I’m not very keen on first direct’s Platypus videos.

The brand should be applauded for putting everything behind its slightly ‘wacky’ creative, though. The fact that the ad isn’t funny doesn’t really matter on television, where the audience is passive, because the advert, even if it falls flat, may still be memorable (black and white, platypus, accents).

It can even be argued the humour created by a bank can ill afford to be too edgy, as a trustworthy bank is one with the sense of humour of your hard-working and slightly cheesy father.

With the enormous amount of air time, too, the ad is as prominent as any other in cinemas and on the smaller screen. The black and white is recognisable and draws the viewer.

However, the humour strategy is a lot more risky online. The audience is very active and will barely watch stuff that isn’t worth it, let alone share it. Only truly funny and creative content will do the rounds.

In fact, I’d say there are completely different criteria for video online and off.

  • Online: compelling, sharable, ideally re-watchable.
  • Offline: large or strategic paid exposure, memorable for good or bad reasons.

The adverts are definitely better than some recent meerkat ads at getting the attention of the audience, for whatever reason.

Compare the Market, as the novelty of Aleksander wore off, found it difficult to match the impact of Go Compare, and its Robert Webb ads didn’t stick in the memory at all, gaining only 23,000 YouTube views since December 2012.

Online video

The campaign videos on YouTube have been viewed modestly (20,000 or so in three months), despite being slap bang in the middle of the first direct home page.

The video also doesn’t have many thumbs up. However, the call to action in the YouTube video is slightly better than the interactive one, a simple check out ‘#theunexpectedbank’. 

I think the clickable video (I’ve seen them on 4OD) lacks a call to action, mainly fronting the ability to view ‘outtakes’ from the video, and not to investigate the product on offer. 

Sure, a softly softly approach is best, but at some point you have to ease the customer from content to product, less abruptly than ‘platypus, platypus, interest rates’. 

There’s the option of a number of outtakes, which then show in pane, and the call to action is a small bar saying ‘Join the unexpected bank’, as well as a tiny ‘share’ button. Neither stand out; one of the drawbacks in all media for the otherwise very strong black and white first direct non-colour chart. 

I don’t think it’s the best strategy to give people the opportunity to see these outtakes at their own behest, rather a prominent call to action advertising an account or service of first direct’s would be better (e.g. £125 incentive to switch banks).

Check out these adverts with interactive elements clearer (more honest?) at pushing towards engagement with a product.

Yes, first direct’s is more of a branding piece, but these are still a good guide for clear CTAs.



Twitter and teaser

The advert was mentioned ahead of launch, and there’s the occasional link to Facebook, as well as the occasional use of #unexpected[blank], but this Twitter account is fairly unimportant for the brand compared with the one FD uses as a customer service channel. 

The main campaign success was getting #unexpectedtweet to do very well as response to the teaser tv ad, showing how effective Twitter is when used with tv.

In fact, this video, hosted on a different YouTube account (obviously in order to be initially anonymous) has had nearly 175,000 views, which is mighty impressive.

Some have accused the unexpected tweet part of the first direct video to be a bit of a ripoff of this beautiful turkey video, but whether or not it is (I’d imagine a lot of beat boxing sounds the same), the #unexpectedtweet hashtag did well in May, around the teaser advert (just the birds part of the ad) airing.


There is the occasional intimation that some of the Facebook comments aren’t exactly spontaneous outpourings of praise. I think this is a little off the mark, but there are employees on there and long term customers, and FD seems to have a real fanbase, which can often make comments seems solicited when they’re not. 

Actually, if you look at the posts around the advert when it launched in May, there’s a fair amount of criticism for the ads. 

On the whole, there’s a decent amount of comments on Facebook around the ad campaign, and this makes sense. It’s something to be watched, but doesn’t generate debate.

Some behind-the-scenes photos etc have been added, and the Facebook account as a whole seems to have had a change of tack recently, veering towards financial advice and news, rather than being quite as ‘quirky’.

Out of home

The out of home ads hit the mark. They are suitably easy to take in and again pretty cheesy. I’m still not sure if first direct actually thinks beat boxing is down with the kids, or if it’s just cleverly pitching at an older audience and not saying so. Either way, strong black and white ad. 

In conclusion

I might have sounded overly critical in this article. I actually think that first direct has made a bold move with this campaign that truly makes it stand out. 

The fact the bank doesn’t have branches and relies on savvy and loyal customers means they are well positioned to take this kind of risk. 

The platypus has a Yorkshire accent, referencing the company’s roots, which is a nice touch that Leeds based customers are likely to understand. 

I think the ad could have been funny, but ultimately it’s a very memorable piece of television, with the teaser finches racking up some momentum and interest ahead of launch. 

All in all, the onus is now on other banks to up their creative game. What do you think?

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