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'Misleading' Nationwide ad starring Dominic West banned

'Misleading' Nationwide ad starring Dominic West banned
Anna Sagar
Written By:
Anna Sagar

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said that Nationwide’s adverts starring Dominic West were “misleading” and should “not appear again their current form”.

The adverts, which included a TV, radio and press advert, featured Dominic West, an executive at A.N.Y. BANK, talking to a colleague about branch closures.

When his colleague responds that Nationwide is not closing down branches, or that the bank has confirmed that branches will be kept open, West’s characters respond that this bank is not Nationwide.

Around 282 complainants, which included Santander, said that they understood that Nationwide had “recently closed or reduced opening hours at a number of branches,” and challenged whether the adverts were misleading.

The ASA said: “We acknowledged that over a 10-year period, in comparison to other financial institutions, Nationwide had closed the smallest percentage of any financial institution’s estate. However, we noted that they had nevertheless closed 20% of their estate, which equated to 152 branches, and we considered that was a significant number that had been permanently closed.

“We also understood that since Nationwide had launched their original branch promise, in the 18 months since July 2022, they had permanently closed 20 branches. Of those 20, 14 had been closed in the 12 months preceding the campaign, with two of them having been closed in 2023.”

It said that the branch promise was only valid until 2026, at which point the bank could close branches permanently.

“We considered those factors relating to previous, recent branch closures and the effect on future branches in the long term were likely to be significant to consumers when making decisions about whether to choose Nationwide, in the context of the claims made in the adverts that Nationwide were not closing their branches,” it said.

The ASA concluded: “Because we considered that consumers would understand from the adverts that Nationwide would not be closing branches in the long-term future and that they had not recently closed branches, we concluded that the adverts were misleading.”

Nationwide ‘committed to maintaining branch network’

In its response, Nationwide said that as a mutual society, it was different from large financial institutions and that it was “committed to maintaining [its] branch network”.

It pointed to its 2023 branch promise, which says that Nationwide would not close any of its branches until at least 2026.

The bank also noted that the use of the present tense would indicate that its branch promise referred to future branch closures and consumers would “interpret the claims as future-facing”.

The bank said that the promise related to not closing branches unless it was outside of its control; for instance, a landlord termination of a lease.

“They acknowledged that, had their advertising appeared immediately after a significant number of closures, the adverts may have been misleading by omission. However, they clarified that their most recent branch closure had been in April 2023, approximately six months before the ad campaign started, and therefore did not believe the claims were misleading,” the ASA said.

Nationwide said that in the prior 18 months it had closed 20 branches, with two closed in 2023, but that the closures fell within the previous 2019 branch promise.

It added that, of the UK’s top 10 major financial institutions, it was the only one to commit to not closing branches between now and 2026.

Nationwide said that it had trialled reduced opening hours in 88 branches, which it had made multi-skilled branches. The revised hours, the bank said, were preferable to closures for customers, and it added that the adverts were about closure rather than opening hours.