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Barclays Explores our Emotional Depths

April 2024

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

At first glance, it might seem like some brands have more creative license than others. Soda brands ride the wave of happiness, baby-care products bask in inherent warmth, and beer brands are synonymous with humor. The story often therefore goes that we should spare a thought for verticals like banking and finance, where forging an emotional connection is an uphill battle — and some would even say impossible.

That's why when a brand in such a category is able to craft emotionally resonant advertising, it's worth sitting up and taking notice. And when said ad flips the script by leveraging negative emotions to grab and retain viewers’ attention (while still portraying the brand in a favorable light), it has all the hallmarks of something special.

Enter Barclays, the U.K. banking giant, with an ad that first aired in 2017 but whose impact still reverberates today (we tested it again 7 years later to see if it was still striking the same chord with Brits). Set against the inconspicuous backdrop of a call-center, the narrative takes a chilling twist as we discover the sinister intentions of the caller, attempting to extract sensitive information from their unsuspecting victim. With an anxiety-inducing soundtrack and villainous character cast to perfection, Barclays' message about digital security sees the brand emerge as a beacon of authority amid rising tensions in the wider community.

The ad (aptly named "Digital Safety") is a testament to the tremendous power of leveraging negative emotions and their ability to disrupt the status quo, harnessing fear to deliver a message that lingers long after the screen has faded to black.

But while emotion is undoubtedly effective at capturing people’s attention and facilitating more seamless memory encoding, the underlying need that advertisers tap into is what ultimately guides behavior. In Barclays' case, fear serves as the catalyst for action, compelling viewers to remain vigilant. By tapping into consumers' anxieties and vulnerabilities, it creates a sense of urgency and prompts a change in attitudes and behaviors.

While it may initially evoke discomfort, Barclays' message resonates with viewers on a deeper and more personal level, positioning the brand as a trusted ally in navigating the complexities of digital security. By aligning the brand with the ad's emotional climax, Barclays is effectively embedded into the narrative, ensuring the brand will be imprinted into the audience’s memory.

By delving into the shadows of the human psyche, "Digital Safety" reminds us of the tremendous potential of leveraging the full spectrum of emotions available to advertisers. Barclays not only captivates but also cultivates an enduring connection with consumers. In an era where authenticity reigns supreme, harnessing the raw power of emotions isn't just a lesson — it's a revelation (even if it just so happens to be a bank that’s teaching us how!).

Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants about our ad testing & tracking solution. Expert-led, evidence-based insights — which don’t break the bank.

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