Hitting Us When it Hurts – Can These Digital Ads Relieve the Pain?

I was recently checking the status of my bank account online and found an ad embedded within the line items on my bank statement; where I had made a monthly payment – the type of payment that makes you grit your teeth in frustration each month at how much you’re paying for a service, like your cell phone bill, utilities, or your internet or cable TV provider,  a competitor had dropped in a clickable ad for their services.

My first thought was “Really?! Now I’m getting ads in my bank statement?” My bank account feels like a private space. A space that I should feel safe from feeling like outsiders know anything about. And then I started to evaluate this advertising tactic from a marketing standpoint, and decided to dig a bit deeper in to the origins of this ad.

So I set out to answer two questions: one: what are the privacy issues surrounding these ads; Are advertisers accessing my bank accounts? and two: how effective is this as a marketing strategy?

Are advertisers accessing my bank accounts?

Probably not.  It’s most likely the bank, not the advertisers, that are using a third-party marketer to glean data from your statement. A Reuters article in 2011 stated that this data was still controlled only by your bank, and implies that most banks do not share your data with advertisers.

“Who’s got your data? In many of these cases, your credit card issuer is holding your valuable data, and controlling who sees which ad. But “you have to look at the privacy policy of the financial institution that issued your card,” says Paul Stephens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Is this an effective marketing strategy?

Yes. Because this is the best time to hit up the consumer on both the business and private level. This is one of the places that consumers are most vulnerable; looking at account balances, and like many of us, wondering where all their money went this month and bemoaning the costs of my basic monthly expenses. Ugh! Cable service – how did that get so expensive? Cell phone bill – really? I swear I did not use that many minutes this month! And each month, we say we’re going to check in to that other competitor. “I wonder if DirectTV really is cheaper?”, or, “Will I really get more bang for my buck with Dish Network than Comcast?” But I don’t usually take the time to research the competitor and go to the effort of making the switch.

Having that that competitor’s ad right there in front of me, as I’m reviewing my bank account, saying “Click Me! I have something cheaper! Better!”? during a vulnerable stage in my mindset, is certainly more likely to get me to click on the ad for that service or product, while it’s top of mind. (Of course, they’re going to promise me the sun and the moon and the stars, and after my initial sign up period, they might up my fees in some way.) But – they got me to switch – to buy what they’re selling.

This begs the question; what other types of commerce industries could benefit from this kind of ad placement? That expensive sweater I bought online on a whim – now showing up on my bank statement, making me second guess my purchase, a little buyer’s remorse sinking in – what if a different retailer advertised a sale on that line on my statement? What if they advertised a sale on the same product that I had paid full price for?

Bottom line? Anytime you can catch a consumer (B2B or B2C) during the process of evaluating their costs and expenses is a great time to strike while the iron is hot and divert and capture their attention toward your product.

This newly evolving form of advertising is clearly a win-win situation for both the bank and the advertiser. Is it a win for the consumer?

Give us your thoughts; is this type of advertising too invasive, or is it brilliant marketing? How can you incorporate this advertising tactic into your company’s marketing strategy?

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