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Banking company Revolut condemned for ‘single-shaming’ advert ahead of Valentine’s Day

‘Using data to cruelly mock people who are alone on Valentine’s is wrong’

Sabrina Barr
Tuesday 05 February 2019 10:20 GMT
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(Iona Bain)

An advert created by a financial company has been heavily lambasted for “single-shaming” ahead of Valentine’s Day.

On 4 February, financial expert and founder of Young Money Blog Iona Bain shared a photo on Twitter of a Revolut advert that she’d spotted on the London Underground.

The caption of the advert focuses on those who may be spending Valentine’s Day alone this year, stating: “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?”

Some have expressed their opposition to the advert, describing it as “exploitative” and “cruel”.

“How much does this ad infuriate me? Let me count the ways. Firstly, patronising language and awful single-shaming more redolent of early 2000s Bridget Jones, not a modern and empowered fintech brand,” Bain tweeted.

“Secondly, the way it pries into people’s private spending and exploits it so strangers can laugh at perfectly valid life choices that – we’re all expected to agree – are sad and pathetic. Not exactly caring and progressive.”

Bain continued, explaining that the advert doesn’t provide the consumer with any information about the brand, instead choosing to focus on achieving “cheap laughs” and to perpetuate the “’sad singles’ motif”.

The financial expert tells The Independent that she’s going to be complaining about the advert to the Information Commissioner’s Office and Advertising Standards Authority, as Revolut hasn’t stated where the data in the advert has come from.

“Revolut refuses to say whether it guessed this data or bought it in from elsewhere,” she says.

“Either way, it’s hugely disturbing to consumers who need to feel their banks are trustworthy, scrupulous and using their data to help them, not ridicule them.”

Felicity Hannah, a freelance journalist specialising in finance and consumer affairs, penned an opinion piece about the advert in Love Money.

Hannah wrote about how she’d noticed a recent growing trend for brands to make fun of their customers.

“Until the Revolut advert, I was still working out what I think about this kind of flippant data use. It’s an emerging area, it’s not always immediately obvious where the red lines should be,” she wrote.

“I definitely believe that using data to cruelly mock people who are alone on Valentine’s is wrong.”

In 2016, Spotify released a series of posters, one of which seemingly expressed concern for singletons on Valentine’s Day.

“Dear person who listened to the ‘Forever Alone’ playlist for four hours on Valentine’s Day, you OK?” the caption on the poster read.

After sharing the photo of the Revolut advert, some people on Twitter infomed Bain that it’s supposedly a parody of the Spotify advert.

In Bain’s opinion, if this is the case, “it really backfired”.

Several people have responded to Bain’s tweets, some of whom have expressed their agreement with her views on the advert.

“Totally agree – tone deaf, not to mention creepy,” one person wrote.

“Well said. Smug, judgemental and patronising. All it does is convince me never to go near this company,” another added.

However, others have stated that they don’t find the advert offensive, and that the backlash is providing Revolut with more publicity.

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In a statement sent to The Independent, a Revolut spokesperson explained that the company had not intended in mocking any of its customers.

“The purpose of this ad was not to take the mickey out of anyone, but to show solidarity with our fellow singles – with a dash of humour. However, with the current copy, I can appreciate that a small number of people have interpreted it differently, but that was not our intention,” they said.

“Fortunately, going by the original BBC article with over 400 comments, the overwhelming majority of people are clearly not offended by the ad, and that’s encouraging. Nonetheless, we’ll take a deep look at this and learn from this as we go forward.”

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