Advertising: The unbearable Abbeyness of being

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The Independent Online

Don't you just love it when financial services people start talking dirty? And wearing open-neck shirts. And generally confessing to getting things wrong. That's what the Abbey National bosses have been doing, appearing at press conferences to promote their new world of Abbeyness (they've dropped the "National"). This new world is a carapace made by brandologists (who've done the renaming and logo), an ad agency (which has made the commercials) and a retail design firm (which is making the branches look different). Having admitted that Abbey "lost the plot" by getting involved in macho big-boy stuff like wholesale banking (just imagine their excitement at lending to Enron), they're getting back to the core business.

Oh, and they're writing all their material in plain English.

The logo has "Abbey" in a decapitalised faded soft kind of way that's meant to say "we're unintimidating and tremendously in touch". It's on a swirly-whirly bed of bright 1994ish colours, lime and strawberry pink and so on. The shop fronts seem like a green-tinted version of the Karen Millen sheet-of-glass look of about five years ago - clearly, ladies are featuring in their considerations.

And the commercial? The commercial is built round Abbey's bold, open-necked theme of turning banking on its head, with all these lovely new designs and more modern ways of talking to you. So - and it's elegantly done - they have a crane appear to hook up a pompous provincial 1850s stuccoed bank building, turn it upside down and plonk it back. All this done from the perspective of one of those caffs at the end of the world that advertising creatives see themselves inhabiting. Cosy waitress, old men spooning sugar into tea in 1940s cups, lovely prole Formica tables and chairs. Nobody takes a blind bit of notice, even though it's noisy and realistic, with masses of rubble and broken glass flying around. And just that bit 9/11-ish enough to upset some people.

"Start a beautiful thing with money," they say at the end. I wonder just how many beautiful things mediated in gloriously plain English are going on between perpetually upside-down people in Abbey's gorgeous back offices even as we speak?

peter@sru.co.uk

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