Why the jet ski pension scam ad should win a prize

Written by Simon Grover

The new TV ad warning about jet ski-ing pension scammers is making a splash. Here it is:

The ad alternates between joyful jet ski guy (above) and a chap talking about how he lost all his pension money through a scam.

I really like it – in the sense that I think it’s effective. I think it will make people stop and think: could that happen to me? How can I make sure it doesn’t?

There are a number of things this ad does well, that other communicators of usually-dry information can learn from.

First, it’s personal. We meet an individual and, implicitly, the crook who robbed him. It shows us characters who, briefly, we get to know. That’s more relatable than a generic warning.

Second, it’s visual. We don’t just hear about these people, we see them in person. A picture tells a thousand words, but – if it’s well-presented – it can also press a lot of buttons in our mind.

Third, it’s a story. Obvious perhaps, but look at the structure – the set up of the man working for 40 years. The phone call. It all looked great. Then it went wrong. Stories are powerful things – from the first days of campfires, humans have been fascinated by them.

Fourth, it’s short and to the point. OK, ads usually are. But pensions copy usually isn’t. By borrowing from other worlds – in this case advertising – we could be communicating a lot more effectively.

And finally, it draws you in by making you do a bit of work. The ad doesn’t tell us that the jet ski lout is the scammer, or that he’s using the victim’s pension money to fund a lavish lifestyle. It leaves us to work that out. It’s not rocket science, but it’s enough of a tease to be hugely engaging, and make the viewer feel a part of the experience. That’s not easy to do, but – as lovers of Economist ads will know – when it works, it’s excellent.


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