14 March 2008

ING's "Your Number"

I've always liked the clever ING bench ads. Sometimes they went a bit too far, tried to be too cute – but overall a top-notch campaign.

Their new campaign gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s pod-people ostentatiously (or obliviously) carrying around large orange numbers signifying what they might need to retire.

First of all, are Baby Boomers retiring? Some are – but most will keep on working and contributing to society. So there really isn’t a Your Number.

The web site is truly yucky. Not only a pain to use (pure flash), it’s slickly condescending. Again – a couple of pod people walk in and start talking at me without my permission (I hate that). The guy stumbles around with his hands in his pockets waiting for me as I stumble around trying to figure out what the hell he wants me to do. It turns out to be not much, really. I’m supposed to type in a few meaningless numbers, answer a few questions. Pretty silly.

And if you click around – all that tiny, wishy-washy, white copy on orange background. (And it's all centered - a huge no-no.) Is it possible to make it any more difficult to read?
The New York Times has a take on it all:

Will baby boomers feel shackled to a bright orange number, dollar sign in front, that represents the often-stressful concept of how hard they must work to maintain their lifestyle in old age? When people watch an older couple tuck themselves into bed with the orange number between them, will they view it as a ball and chain between the sheets?
So does Zac Bissonnette:

I just wonder whether the old financial planning models for baby boomer retirement will work. I can comfortably say that none of the baby boomers I know are planning to retire in the conventional way that their parents did -- golf in Florida. My mother tells me frequently that she plans to work in some capacity for her entire life, and I think many of her contemporaries will do the same, by choice. This is the generation that brought us Woodstock, and I would expect that many will "retire" from their careers to pursue part-time work with a socially-conscious edge. If ballroom dancing and big bands were nostalgic for their parents, this generation may be more inclined toward activism and community service.


  1. Some of the comments made in regards to web design seem a bit outdated to me and well, over generalized. Centered a bad thing? Some of the most successful websites where the ROI is undeniable and well documented ( heh, Burger King's Whopper Freak Out ) is centered. Thats like saying that hyperlinks should still be blue. Despite your comments, you still engaged with the brand in a non passive way - something that a simple tv spot cannot provide. It explains why ad dollars are starting to be funneled in a huge way into the interactive medium.

  2. This is a basic design rule - especially for older eyes. If you have a piece of copy that's more than a line or two it should be left justified. Much, much easier to read. Centered text is for headlines with one, two, or if you want to push it - three lines.

    But to be frank - I think the big mistake is the pick of such a tiny, wishy-washy white font. Center five or six lines if you want - as long as their readable.

    Nothing wrong with an active web site - sometimes they're fun. This one gives me the creeps, though. The guy waits for me to type in some numbers - and he has his hands in his pockets, sways side to side, looks up every so often. Just silly, insulting. Interactive? I wish I could tell him to go away - and he would. (Sort of like the tell-the-chicken-what-to-do or whatever-it-was Burger King campaign.)

    Something else: I've been receiving comments for this post that have nothing to do with advertising/marketing/design, etc. They have to do with experiences with ING as a financial services company. This isn't the place for comments, good or bad, about the actual company and their way of doing business. There are plenty of financial blogs for that.

  3. I am having a hard time seeing value in your critique of the experience. In the staid world of financial services, ING seems to be taking a big leap forward in how they create brand awareness and how they engage people about preparing for retirement by creating this microsite. To quote you:

    "Nothing wrong with an active web site - sometimes they're fun. This one gives me the creeps, though."

    This comment completely illustrates your fundamental lack of understanding of interactive media across the board. What exactly does the term "active website" mean? Did you just make that up? I would like to hear a valid, coherent critique of the campaign from you beyond "this gives me the creeps". I might then be able to take away something meaningful that would foster a more potent and insightful reply.

  4. Non-passive. That's the term anonymous #1 used. I could have used that convoluted term - but used 'active.' Let me concede the point, and please correct my comment above by substituting "non-passive" for "active."

    I'm not a big fan of Ameriprise's wild and crazy flower-power pandering - or some of Fidelity's stuff - but I would hardly call them 'staid' - so I certainly don't consider this ING campaign a 'big leap forward.'

    Sorry you don't find my points valid or coherent. I think they're specific and to the point. For example: tone down the orange and use bigger, clearer fonts, left-justify the text - and dump these silly people. Come up with a theme/scenario that is not so condescending. I don't know how more specific I can be.

  5. Why, after looking at your site, should I consider any of your points about layout, design, or interactive experiences? Seems one should have an informed opinion about design before offering up such critique, yes? You may understand Baby Boomers....yo don't understand Interactive Marketing or design. Period.

  6. Ethical blog comments. And blogger ethics when dealing with comments.

    There are no hard rules for any of the above as far as I know. I guess we’ll all learn as we go.

    The post before this one is signed anonymous. Trouble is, I know where it came from. I traced the IP address. It is from the advertising agency responsible for the campaign discussed in the post.

    Should I have revealed this? Is it ethical? The poster obviously wanted to be completely anonymous. Perhaps I should have respected this wish. Yet, the post criticizes my take on a campaign produced by the company he/she works for. Is it ethical to leave a comment of this nature without revealing that you work for the ad agency, and/or are leaving a comment using the agency's internet account?

    Am I obligated to publish comments, anonymous or not? No. However, if I do publish them - is it ethical for me to reveal information I have about the origin of anonymous comments?

    I could log on to this blog service as ‘anonymous’ and post a comment extolling the brilliance of Chuck Nyren’s take on this campaign. I could leave dozens of comments. Would that be ethical? Yet, someone leaves a comment anonymously, not revealing that he/she is affiliated with the company that produced the campaign discussed in the post. Is that any different?

    Am I at all obligated to publish an anonymous post I know to be ethically stained without disclosing all I know? If I withhold the information, everyone reading the comment would assume that it is from a third party, that the comment is objective, valid. Is it therefore an ethical imperative, in instances where relevant, that I reveal the source of anonymous comments before publishing?

    Perhaps I should have not published the comment. That would have been the easy way out. I certainly have this choice.

    I also traced the first two anonymous posts. They originated from the same IP address. I won’t reveal the city where the IP address is assigned (but it was no surprise to me). I gave he/she a pass – publishing and openly replying to both comments as if this one person were two people. Perhaps they are two people – with the same IP address.

    Was I acting dishonestly? Unethically?

    Web ethics. I guess we’ll all learn as we go.

  7. I am going to leave this as a anonymous comment, because I don't want my name to be publicly tied to this.

    With that being said I have met the wonder boys who were responsible for creating this. They are great flash designers, but sadly that is the only tool that they know how to use. Hence the heavy flash. They know how to make something look pretty, not usable. The agency has a small "interactive" department with two flash jockeys, a project manager, and a guy who came from a video background. But they "think" they can do anything.

    As for the ethics of their blog past, sadly what they did here does not surprise me. By the way, the manager of the department came from the agency that Burger King uses. But here is the kicker. "YOUR NUMBER" WAS NOT THEIR IDEA. They "borrowed" it from Lee Eisenberg without his permission. When they were envisioning this idea every person on the campaign had a copy of his book on their desk and they used it to come up with the idea. However, did anybody from this agency ever contact the author to ask for his permission? Sadly they didn't. I guess certain agencies have looser definitions of "fair use".

  8. I can't comment on this possible legal entanglement. That’s for lawyers.

    I’ve always found pure flash sites less interactive. They’re manipulative, confining. I can only do what flash lets me do. Flash embedded in web pages/sites is fine. This gives me more options, choices. Pure flash is often pure frustration.

    And unless it’s truly interactive, I really don’t get it. For example, a little experiment I conducted that I didn’t mention in the original post:

    I followed the directions and typed in my age – 57.

    William said, “Great. It's never too early to have a plan.”

    I refreshed my browser, listened to the spiels again, and typed ‘22’ as my age.

    William said, “Great. It's never too early to have a plan.”

    I refreshed again, listened to the spiels, and typed in ‘99’ as my age.

    William said, “Great. It's never too early to have a plan.”

    ….. If this is the vanguard of creative interactive media and implementation, I want to know nothing of such wisdom and wizardry. Allow me to wallow in my ignorance.