The advertising referred to the following:
Female Voiceover: “Brave knows when opportunity presents itself, you have to move quickly to grasp it. That's why at AIB small business and farming customers can now get approval on new business loans and overdraft requests of up to €30,000 in 48 hours. It's just one of the ways we're backing brave. Find out how AIB can back you, in branch, on the phone, at 1890 47 88 33 or online at aib.ie”
Male Voiceover: “Lending criteria terms and conditions apply. 48 hours starts upon receipt of all required information. Excludes weekends and bank holidays. It may take longer for customers experiencing financial difficulties. Allied Irish Banks P.L.C. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.”
The advertisement opens with the face of a digital clock depicting the time as being 5.59am. Various scenes follow. A farmer milks his cows. A man fixes a gutter. Workers in a coffee shop make coffee. A plumber fixes the pipes in a bathroom. Buses are being driven through a busy street. Beauty therapists work in a salon. Machinists work in a factory making clothes and other workers go about doing their daily tasks as normal.
The scenes described above are accompanied by a female voiceover and for a time the following text appears on screen:
“Our customers have received a gratuity. Allied Irish Banks P.L.C., is regulated by the Central Bank.”
Female Voiceover: “Brave. Let's talk about brave. Brave gets up at 6, zips up its fleece and is on the road while it's still dark. Brave fixes gutters, fills tanks and coffee cups. Brave keeps going through weekends and evenings. And as a result of brave, wages get paid, families reared, and main streets bustle. At AIB, we know all small businesses need to be brave. So we're backing brave with a program of initiatives for small businesses and farmers. So here's the deal: You go out and keep making, innovating, enduring and being brave and at AIB we'll back you.”
The final on-screen text which is accompanied by the AIB Logo reads:
“# Backed by AIB. WE’RE BACKING BRAVE.
In branch. On the phone. Online.”
Two complaints were received in relation to the advertising. Both complainants who had set up small businesses said that AIB had refused to back them. One complainant said that the Bank had refused to provide him with a business overdraft.
The second complainant said that his business had 14 successful business operations in different countries around the world with none of them having a negative rating. He said that AIB had refused to back his business and as a result he had wasted time preparing documents and making submissions to them before actually being provided with finance from a different source. The complainant said that it was not acceptable for the Bank to make such a broad statement and then contradict it with their terms and conditions.
Both complainants considered the term ‘Backing Brave’ to be misleading insofar as the advertisers had failed to provide them with any backing for their businesses.
The advertisers said that their “Backing Brave” campaign was born out of an insight that identified that SMEs and farmers wanted to feel appreciated and supported and that is why they decided to champion them through their marketing communications and support their bravery.
As part of their “Backing Brave” campaign the advertisers said they put a number of initiatives in place to demonstrate how they were backing their small business and farming customers, these included the following:
1. 48 hour approval on loans and overdrafts of up to €30,000
2. Extended opening hours Online and via Telephone
3. 185 Business Customers Advisors nationwide
4. Transaction fee free Business Current Accounts for Start Up Customers
5. No. 1 Bank for Start Ups in Ireland
As the complaints related specifically to lending, the advertisers said while they could not comment on specific cases, they wished to demonstrate that they were “Backing Brave” in this specific area of their business. They said at AIB, their approval rate on formal SME credit applications each month was 94%, and this has remained steady for the past couple of years. They said this was a matter of public record which had been reported to the Department of Finance on a quarterly basis.
The advertisers said they were also the biggest lender of Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) funding in Ireland to December 2015 with 91% of their customers approved for low-cost lending, ahead of other banks. They said they were also the only bank to draw down a second tranche of €200 million for small business and farming customers, this fund was available to their customers at the lowest quoted rate in the market at 4.5%.
The advertisers said that the specific terms and conditions attached to their “Backing Brave” campaign varied depending on the product or service being referred to in their marketing communications. In relation to their “€30,000 in 48 hours” initiative, they said this carried no additional criteria outside of normal business lending, and was governed by two distinct sets of Regulations which had been applied prior to it being release.
1. Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (Section 48) Lending to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) Regulations 2015.
2. Central Bank Codes of Conduct and Regulations – various.
Notwithstanding the above, the advertisers said all their advertising was also subjected to approval by both Advertising Compliance and Legal functions within AIB, prior to being released and this had also being the case with their “Backing Brave” campaign.
The advertisers said while they provided a full set of terms and conditions on their website and in all of their branches, as with all lending they tried to protect all of their customers by applying relevant criteria to determine their ability to repay.
The advertisers said at AIB they tracked and measured the performance of their advertising via a Brand Equity Pulse Study conducted by Millward Brown among business owners/managers of SMEs, across all sectors in Ireland. This study tracked the main financial providers’ performance across a number of brand equity measures among SMEs. The most recent research findings for Q2 (April-June) 2016, confirmed that they continued to retain (and further strengthen) their position as being “The Bank that genuinely supported SMEs” and also as “The Bank which best understands the financial needs of start-up businesses”. Their scores also remained higher than that of any other bank in the study.
The advertisers concluded that their “Backing Brave” advertising campaign had accurately reflected that they were definitively and compellingly backing Irish SMEs and farmers in their businesses.
Complaint Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They noted from the information provided by the advertisers that they had an approval rate on formal SME credit applications each month of 94%, and this had remained steady for the past couple of years.
The Committee acknowledged that it was acceptable when applying for any loan that applicants must meet with certain criteria before being granted loan approval. They also acknowledged that not all applicants would meet with this criteria, which may result in their loan application being turned down.
While the Complaints Committee noted the concerns raised by the complainants they did not consider that the advertising had breached the requirements of the Code.”
No further action was required in this case.