Three ongoing advertising campaigns for well-known financial service providers - NatWest, First Direct and Nationwide - seem to be basing their pitch to punters on the basis that their industry is full of shysters.
NatWest ads for a number of years have featured banks being rubbish at looking after their customers. From the 'my bank is now a trendy wine bar' ones a few years back to the 'yeah Will' series currently on TV they have portrayed banks treating the public like suckers. The FirstDirect ads currently showing feature a double act of a sales dude in a white suit and a cynical (potential?) customer in a black suit who doubts the motivations behind the promotions being offered. And the Nationwide ads are probably most extreme as they feature a bank manager who is fat, lazy and is open about how they take existing customers for granted, and clearly doesn't mind annoying customers to the point they leave.
I can understand this on one level. The public has a pretty low opinion of the financial services industry, so the pitch is basically "you're right to think that their are con artists in our industry, but we are different". But I'm not sure that playing up the bad reputation of the industry is a smart way to flog more services.
One of the reasons the banks built big impressive buildings in the past was to convey to the punters that they were solid, solvent and trustworthy. But with a lot of financial services advertising now playing on the idea that financial services companies treat their customers badly, isn't this just going to reinforce the idea that its an industry based on ripping off the punters? This will no doubt lessen the confidence of those who are already worried about financial matters. Even worse if might mean people almost expect it when they genuinely are ripped off by their provider.