American Express recently released an advertisement titled “Spent: Looking for Change.” The ad watches more like a documentary about the high costs for low-income people living outside the traditional financial system. The film is narrated by Tyler Perry and follows four families who are “unbanked” or “under-banked” and must use alternatives to banking such as check-cashing services, payday lenders, pawn shops, and car title lenders.
The nearly 40 minute commercial is freely available online, features no brand content, and does not mention American Express until the closing minutes. An earlier version of the commercial featured no mention of American Express at all.
American Express’ group president for enterprise growth explained that the issue is “one we believe in pretty passionately.” American Express, he added, “wanted to create a documentary that brings to life this story in a way that a print ad or an article” could not. American Express has recently introduced products to address the concerns of the unbanked and the under-banked, but there is no mention of these products in the commercial.
This campaign may remind you of Chipotle’s recently commissioned web series about industrial farming.
Do you think the new American Express campaign will be more effective than traditional cause marketing? How could your organization use a documentary to tell its story?