First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
In a world obsessed with status, do you want a bank that takes your money – or takes your money seriously? That’s the premise of a new hard-hitting Nedbank campaign comprising five films and a traffic-stopping display on Wednesday, 5 May along “Africa’s richest square mile”, delivering the message that a carefree attitude towards managing our money determines not only the present, but also the future.
The campaign builds on Nedbank’s success in 2019 with “Money Secrets: it’s time to talk about the hardest thing to talk about, money”, which was shown as a powerful short film in 800 cinemas across the country, dealing with the money secrets people don’t speak about, such as pyramid schemes, excessive shopping and bad cash-flow management. Said to be SA’s “most talked about film of the year”, the campaign highlighted a national dysfunctional relationship with money: 34 million South Africans live beyond our means; we’re the worst savers in the world; only 6% of us are able to retire comfortably; we live the high life on credit.
The campaign hit the bull’s-eye, trending on social media within an hour of its launch and attracting 89 million campaign impressions with 75 million views. It gave Nedbank a top ranking in the 2019 Brands Eye Banking Sentiment Index, which is a significant achievement considering its negative net sentiment scores in previous years.
It also won the creator, Joe Public, numerous awards.
The films for the latest campaign, which went “live” on television and social media at the end of last month, were once again devised by Joe Public.
The films present various scenarios: “V8 Burden”, showing a man, getting into a high-performance car: “Strap yourself into this hand-built, five-litre sedan: an engineering marvel that can drive your spending into the red; accelerating your lifestyle beyond your means.”
“Zero-Stars” features a player on a basketball court: “In this world of doing it for the ‘gram’ [Instagram], you can do anything,” the voiceover warns. “All you need is determination and a fresh pair of these [trainers], and these, and these. But what’s the point of looking like inja yegame [an all-star] if your dreams go up in flames?”
“D-Vice” shows a woman staring at a screen while on a treadmill: “The ultimate accessory, the latest shiny thing … mesmerised, trying to keep up but never getting ahead, in an endless cycle of spending.”
In a send-up of women’s perfume adverts, the narrator purrs: “Indulge your desires. Be swept away by the fragrance of Descent. Take the plunge into impulsive spending” – with the chilling clincher, “Until you find yourself deeper and deeper, drowning in debt.”
And the final – “Le Grandeur” – a snappily dressed sophisticate reclines against an opulent nightspot counter, sipping on something that no doubt breaks the bank. “The rich taste of ‘you’ve arrived’. Uyingakara [you’re the man]. Living the life of illusion, leaving your finances on the rocks.”
Riverbed was behind the recent larger-than-life pop-up displays in Sandton that asked consumers, “Would you blow it or grow it?” comprising a luxury car, a high-end designer wardrobe and a debauched night on the town, which shine a light on consumerism by showcasing how a taste for the good life – when it’s beyond your means – forces people into debt. The exhibit also focused on the flipside, showing that with a few simple money management changes, we can turn our financial lives and futures around.
In the final analysis, South Africans have an appalling relationship with money. Retail sector sales top more than R1-trillion a year – this is including during the pandemic – and much of it is funded by revolving credit, leaving South Africans indebted by more than R4-trillion in 2021.
TransUnion’s Q4 2020 South Africa Industry Insights Report found that South Africans own about 7 million credit cards, 16.2 million clothing accounts, 2.3 million vehicle accounts, 6.7 million bank personal loan accounts and 5.7 million non-bank personal loan accounts – which means we are heavily reliant on unsecured credit.
Overindebtedness is a big problem in the upper LSM categories, with Experian’s Q4 Consumer Default Index reporting that new default balances in the fourth quarter of 2020 amounted to R18.26-billion, with most of it being among the most affluent segments of the population who have outstanding debt amounting to about R600-billion. The top 2.5% of the country’s most credit-active consumers are also responsible for most of the new defaults on debt repayments. And while up to 40% of consumers skipped retail store payments, nearly 60% of them skipped personal loan payments.
“The ability of South Africans across all income levels to save adequately is coming under serious threat from their own spending habits and resulting increasing levels of debt,” says Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank’s group executive for marketing and corporate affairs.
“Yet, simply by making better money choices, like drawing up a … budget and identifying a handful of products or activities that can have cheaper alternatives substituted for them, the average household can work toward a savings goal and put themselves back on track to greater financial security.”
Nobanda said while there is nothing inherently wrong with debt and consumption – they are key drivers of growth – people need to come to terms with certain habits that get in the way of their financial future.
“There are various types of credit and loans which are granted to consumers and can be used for good.
“A positive loan, for example, can be utilised for the purpose of growth, such as investing in education and home improvements. A loan for the purpose of frivolous spending just because it is offered to you should be avoided.”
Covid-19 might have added to the debt burden, but most of us were already deeply in the red before the pandemic and our bad financial habits are encouraging spending, rather than saving.
The message from Nedbank: change is possible, and it wants to help customers to find a more sustainable and healthy financial future. DM168