Nationwide turns ad ban into a creative advantage with revamped branch promises

Nationwide turns ad ban into a creative advantage with revamped branch promises

Discover how Nationwide is leveraging the ASA ruling to enhance its advertising strategy by introducing fresh branch commitments in its ads.

A still from the Nationwide refresh

A still from the Nationwide refresh

A still from the disputed Nationwide campaign.

Nationwide sees the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) ban on its adverts as a chance to reinforce its commitment to keeping branches open. The ads, which aired on TV, radio, and press, showcased fictional conversations at A.N.Y Bank. In the TV ad, Dominic West and Sunil Patel portrayed bank employees discussing branch closures and highlighting Nationwide's decision to maintain open branches.

The regulator received 281 complaints, including from rival Santander, questioning whether the ads were misleading because Nationwide had closed several branches and switched to reduced trading hours in others.

Following today’s (3 April) ruling from the ASA that the content is indeed misleading, Nationwide will now update its Branch Promise adverts with a refreshed commitment to keep branches open in current locations until at least the start of 2028.

In 2019, the Branch Promise was first introduced with a commitment to not shut down any branches in current locations until the beginning of 2026.

A representative from Nationwide shared with Our Website: "We acknowledge the ASA's ruling and are pleased to announce the extension of our Branch Promise. We are now dedicated to keeping all branches open until the start of 2028."

Thanks to our investment in keeping branches open, we now have more branches than any other brand and remain the only one in over 90 communities. We acknowledge the ASA's decision and are excited to further clarify our Branch Promise.


New Commercial Arts created the campaign for Nationwide, marking the company's largest rebrand in almost four decades. The project included the introduction of the new brand platform 'A good way to bank', as well as updates to the app, website, visual identity, and logo.

During the launch in October 2023, the building society announced its goal to be a strong competitor to big banks, positioning itself as a modern and confident alternative.

The creative campaign caught the public's eye. In October, Nationwide's relaunch advertising was recognized as one of the most effective ads by System1, a firm that evaluates ad effectiveness. The 'A good way to bank' ad was also among the top 10% of banking ads tested by System1.

'Stifle competition'

In February, it was reported that Santander had raised concerns to the ASA in the autumn about Nationwide's campaign, which they believed was unfairly criticizing and belittling its competitors regarding bank closures.

Brinsley Dresden, the Co-head of advertising and marketing at Lewis Silkin law firm, who advised Nationwide on the case, believes that Santander exploited a complaint to gain a competitive edge.

Dresden expressed disappointment that the Advertising Standards Authority sided with Santander on minor issues in the ads that did not meet the standards of being 'materially misleading' according to the CAP and BCAP Codes. This decision allowed Santander to limit competition and consumer choices without valid reasons.

The ASA pointed out mentions of Santander as a 'Big bank' in both TV and press ads in the ruling.

Instead of trying to match Nationwide's costly commitment to keep its branch network, Santander opted for a more economical approach by filing a complaint with the ASA.

Brinsley Dresden from Lewis Silkin pointed out that Nationwide had closed 20% of its branches, which was the smallest proportion compared to other institutions. However, the watchdog noted that consumers might have missed the information in the ads about when Nationwide could start closing branches.

Furthermore, according to the ASA, Santander closed fewer branches in the year leading up to the ad campaign compared to Nationwide. At the time the ad was shown, Santander had not made any announcements about closing more branches in the future.

In terms of timing, Dresden highlights that Nationwide's most recent branch closure before the campaign started in October 2023 was in April of the previous year. Additionally, only two branches were closed during the entirety of 2023, with one closure being due to a landlord ending the lease.

Nationwide believed that the six-month gap from the last closure was in line with what the average consumer would expect. The Branch Promise was understood by consumers to mean that no branches were currently being closed or had been closed recently.

Dresden emphasizes that promoting competition between banks serves consumer interests. A key aspect of this competition is the branch networks, especially considering the significant number of branch closures over the past decade or more.

Santander chose not to compete with Nationwide's costly commitment to keep its branch network. Instead, Santander decided to file a complaint with the ASA, which was a more cost-effective approach. This decision was made in the best interest of Santander, not consumers.

Editor's P/S:

The Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) ban on Nationwide's advertising campaign, which highlighted its commitment to keeping branches open, has sparked controversy. While Nationwide sees it as an opportunity to reinforce its promise, the ruling raises questions about the accuracy and fairness of the ads. The 281 complaints, including from rival Santander, allege that the campaign was misleading as Nationwide had closed several branches and reduced trading hours in others. The ASA's decision underscores the importance of truthfulness and transparency in advertising, especially when it involves claims that may influence consumers' financial decisions.

The case also highlights the competitive landscape within the banking industry, where institutions strive to differentiate themselves and attract customers. Nationwide's focus on maintaining a wide branch network sets it apart from other banks that have embraced a more digital-centric approach. However, the ASA's ruling suggests that Nationwide may have overstated its commitment, leading to confusion among consumers. As the banking sector continues to evolve, it will be crucial for institutions to find a balance between innovation and maintaining the physical presence that customers value.