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Ally Bank’s Winning Strategy – Disappoint Kids

Posted on | June 29, 2009 | 24 Comments

By Holly Buchanan

I’ll give Ally Bank this, they got my attention with their new TV ads.   Being mean to kids definitely got an emotional reaction out of me.


What I’m struggling to understand is how showing a commercial with deceitful men being mean to kids makes me feel good about their bank.  I know they’re trying to say, this isn’t us….but they don’t spend enough time giving me an “after” picture that allows me to walk away feeling good.

I’ve been surfing the net to see what reactions others have to these commercials.  Some find them hilarious and love them.  Others are deeply disturbed and hate them.  It’s tough to tell by commenters’ names if they are male or female. But I’ve noticed that many of those who don’t like the ads are female.  (Though there are men who don’t like them either).

I think this is another fascinating example of male vs. female humor.   Women don’t like humor where someone is put down or is the “victim.”      Women especially don’t like to see children put into the “victim” role.

One of the reasons why folks like the commercials is because of the realistic looks of hurt, disappointment and anger in the children’s faces.   But that’s a double edged sword.  Women are natural empathizers.  They are relating to the negative emotions the kids are experiencing.

I don’t know whether these kids are actors, or as some of the commenters have suggested, that these were real kids brought in unknowingly to participate in the commercials.

But that just ads to the ickyness factor.

These commercials might have worked better for women if there was an “after” focus.  For example, if the kids had a piggy bank, and after the deceiving treatment, they walked across the street to an Ally bank and were welcomed and treated properly.   That way women are left with a positive image and emotion associated with Ally.

As I said, Ally Bank is certainly getting attention with these ads.  But for me, all it says about Ally is –  if this bank thinks these commercials are good, it’s a bank I don’t want to have anything to do with.

What do you think?   Do these commercials make you want to bank with Ally or not?


24 Responses to “Ally Bank’s Winning Strategy – Disappoint Kids”

  1. Beth Rubin-Gabor
    June 30th, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

    I love these commercials! As a mother of two young children and also a marketing freelancer I can appreciate the humor and shock value! Great concept and execution!

    One of my favorite movies of all times “Crazy People” is a 1990 movie starring Dudley Moore as a burnt out advertising executive whose mental breakdown lands him in a psychiatric hospital. With time on his hands, the man quickly recovers his mental health and is inspired to make truthful advertisements.

    Maybe these type of commercials is what we need. Some truth, humor and shock value never hurt anyone…not even a kid!

  2. Holly Buchanan
    July 1st, 2009 @ 8:30 am


    I LOVED Crazy People. One of my all time favorite movies. What I loved about the commercials in the movie was that they weren’t slick or edgy. They simply tapped into what people are really thinking. One of my favorites was the “Yes, I want to go to the bathroom” spot. Brilliant.

    If the Ally commercial had people saying, “I don’t trust banks.” or if you want to get to what people are really thinking, “Bankers are scum who only look out for their own paychecks.” THAT would get my attention. If they then went on to give specific reasons why they are different, I might actually consider giving them my business.

    As I said, if there was an “after” where the kids got to stick it to the guy pulling the old switcheroo, I’d be left with a positive emotion.

    But I’m glad you found the spots funny. That’s the thing about women, we’re all different.

    I’m curious – do you like the commercial enough to switch? Have you changed your bank to Ally? Opened an account with them?

  3. JoAnn
    July 7th, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Holly.
    I am sickened every time I see these commercials.
    I’ve both emailed and called the bank to voice my concern, and mentioned the male vs. female factor. In addition, I cannot imagine their using a female banker to be so cruel to children.
    I’ve never before experienced being pained when watching a commercial!
    Such rank insensitivity.

  4. JoAnn
    July 7th, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Holly.
    I am sickened every time I see these commercials.
    I’ve both emailed and called the bank to voice my concern, and mentioned the male vs. female factor. In addition, I cannot imagine their using a female banker to be so cruel to children.
    I’ve never before experienced being pained when watching a commercial!
    Such rank insensitivity.
    I’m not in the market to change banks.

  5. Mary Beyer
    July 20th, 2009 @ 1:11 am

    I would never bank with Ally because of these commercials. The ads are cruel and heartless. “….shock value never hurt anyone – not even a child”? We are all being desensitized.

  6. Loretta De Rosso
    July 26th, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    These commercials with these adorable children and “the meanest guy on TV” are priceless and precious. I hate commercials with a passion, but ALLY has hit the jackpot with these kids and this guy who I think would make a very funny guest on the late night shows.

  7. Loretta De Rosso
    July 26th, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    Although I consider the ALLY commercials the best on TV, as the grandmother of nine wonderful grandchildren, I can understand that there is a certain amount of exploitation going on, although, I would imagine that immediately after filming, the children were reassured that what had occurred was all done in fun and as the saying goes, “all’s well that ends well”.

  8. Czechbikr
    July 30th, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    I would not do business with a company that thinks it’s cute to manipulate children to make a point about their service. If you watch their faces you will see pain and confusion and I believe it’s wrong to promote one’s business on the backs of children.

  9. Cherry Carver
    August 13th, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    Based on my visceral reaction to those commercials, the pony one in particular, I will NEVER, EVER bank with Ally. My husband hates these ads, too. Fooling little children is abominable. The hurt reaction on their faces seems too real for me to believe these are actors. SHAME on Ally Bank, and shame on the ad firm they used to create these sadistic commercials.

  10. AJ
    August 17th, 2009 @ 11:45 am

    Look. It’s a commercial. It’s not real and these kids (or their parents) ultimately walk away with money for their appearance.

    Words like “sickened”, “abominable”, and “sadistic” certainly don’t apply in this situation. Get over it. There are certainly more degrading things we can be doing to our children than dissapointing them.



  11. Douglas Kurz
    September 11th, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

    Well, here’s a guy’s response: I hate these ads. They are mean-spirited and rotten. While they may be well-executed with trained child actors, that doesn’t excuse the depiction of tricking children and treating them unfairly. While Ally Bank wants to say that this is what OTHER banks are like, THEY are the ones who came up with this. I would NEVER bank with them. Besides, did you all know that they are a re-packaging of GMAC, the financial arm of General Motors? GM gets bailed out with taxpayer funds, and as a reward we get this new bank with their evil ads.

  12. bw
    November 17th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

    Brilliant commercial. People are not going to choose to invest their future and trust just in a commercial. The buzz it has received has generated much interest and research into Ally. The marketing campaign is top notch and there are more people who find it humorous than find it “sadistic”. As far as exploiting children; are you serious? If this is the case we need to take our children out of the school systems so they will not be decieved and shelter them. I hope you are also posting on Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. commercial for the exploitation of women.

  13. Troody
    November 29th, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

    holly, i am with you, i hate them! being cruel to children is never funny..i wonder about the people who think it is an okay thing..even funny. i just dont get that..

  14. John Brewer
    January 3rd, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    I had never heard of Ally Bank before these awful commercials, so I suppose they are succeeding in getting known to the public. To what end? I can’t think of anything that offends me more than child abuse of any kind.
    It breaks this old heart to see the hurt on both the little, dissappointed girls faces.
    If I could, I would send them their pony and bike for Christmas.
    Ally Bank consider this is a lump of coal. That is all you could ever get from me.

  15. Heidi
    January 18th, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    I would not do ANY business with this company
    because of the commercials. My child came to me after seeing the pony commercial and was crying because she was sad for the little girl
    that was tricked. I feel that these commercials
    send mixed messages for young children , very deceitful amd misleading.

  16. Ellen Kimball
    January 25th, 2010 @ 5:34 am

    I have a visceral revulsion every time I see one of the three advertisements used by Ally Bank. I have had a long career in TV, radio, marketing, and advertising but I also come at this as a woman, mother, and grandmother.

    The three commercials — that have been running since mid-2009 according to my information — are atrocious. There are several themes running simultaneously in my opinion. “Irritation advertising” — which does work sometimes — is not what a bank should be after in my opinion. Repetition is OK, but running these three ads for all this time in order to gain customers for an on-line bank — is ridiculous. Bait-and-switch is only one theme. I really don’t accept the participation of children in advertising where reorganized banks are concerned. Evidently you’d rather bash other banks than create good will for your own bank. For institutions, positive advertising works better in the long run.

    There is also an underlying “beauty” and self-image issue, too, for the two little girls in the “pony” advertisement. Think of it this way — what if the REJECTED little girl was BLACK — instead of just being brunette? Unacceptable. She looks Eastern Europe ethnic to me (Italian? Greek? Other?) The whole meaning changes in my opinion with this feature. Light-haired (and light-skinned) girls are viewed as prettier and more deserving than dark-haired girls. Perhaps you never thought of this, but I assure you that this dichotomy still exists all over the world.

    Good luck with your business. Do yourselves a favor. Get some other commercials working for you. I won’t be banking with you in any way, shape or form.


    Ellen Kimball
    Portland, Oregon

  17. Alan
    February 3rd, 2010 @ 10:05 am

    You just do not get it. We are not concerned about the kid actors, we are concerned with the kids and adults that see it on TV. And only you people see this as humor.

    Has Al de Molina seen this communication? I am going to email and send in the mail a copy to him. We will post it everywhere on the internet.

    Its not how much fun the children had on the set it is what the other children see when they watch it on TV. VERY ABASE (belittle, debase, degrade, demean, diminish, disgrace, dishonor, humble, humiliate, lower, mortify, reduce, shame) In case you need a definition.

    From: CustomerCare (Ally Bank)
    Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2010 6:39 AM
    To: ‘’
    Subject: RE: General question – About Ally

    Dear Mr. Warner,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact Ally Bank.

    We understand and appreciate your concern for the children who appear in our Ally Bank ads. I can assure you that the children were treated fairly and had fun on the set.

    Ally Bank is looking to revolutionize the banking industry. To demonstrate how we are taking banking in a new direction our commercials were developed to portray the fundamental difference between right and wrong by using humor. Children were used to deliver our message because they see things as they really are, fair or unfair, and the intention was to capture their honest reactions as they realized that they were being treated unfairly. You should know that once the cameras stopped rolling, these children had a wonderful time playing with the real pony, the truck and riding the bike outside the box and all over the set.

    We appreciate your honest feedback and will share it with our senior management team. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call our Contact Center at 877-247-ALLY. We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you can always visit us online at
    Thank you,
    Customer Care
    Ally Bank

  18. Ronald Arrington
    March 12th, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

    I love the commercials. It highlights the bait and switch, fine print gotcha’s and other ploys used by dishonest Banks and businesses. Good job.

  19. Carolyn
    March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    I am afraid I have to agree with 90% of everyone who sent a response. Every time I see one of these commercials, it makes me feel sick inside. I am sure the kids had a good time at the end of the commercial but for a brief moment they had no idea what to think. I find that tactic just plain “wrong”. I have to put this ad with several other ones that I would classify obnoxious. These commercials impact something very deep in my soul and I hurt because of it for those children.

  20. Lola Carlson
    May 4th, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

    I love these commercials and while I didn’t switch to Ally because of the commercials I did call them because of the commercials and have been a satisfied Ally customer since September 2009. I have three children and as a good mother my children (ages 4-9) can tell when someone is being treated unfairly and they know it’s wrong to do so. I don’t think any decent parent need worry about these “sadistic” commercials corrupting their children. Plus for all of you wanting to see the warm and fuzzy go to it’s the filming of the most recent commercials.

    Good day and god bless!

  21. Catrina
    June 23rd, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    I love the commercials! I thought it was marketing genius to bring in kids who were not actors in order to get a “natural” response and reactions. They were priceless. I’m a woman and I’m sure the marketing people didn’t leave the kids stranded at the end of the filming process. I didn’t find it mean-spirited. I’m sure they gave them something in order to compensate for their time. And let’s be real – I’m sure the little girl in the pony ad didn’t actually get to keep the pony at the end of the day!

    I hope Ally continues to do more of the same ads. They are true “attention-getters”. I never even heard of Ally Bank before then. So when all is said and done; Ally Bank hit the mark. They made people stand up and take notice of them. So kudos to them!

  22. Ric locke
    July 11th, 2010 @ 5:48 am

    I thought maybe it was just me. But I did a search on Yahoo of the string “Ally Bank mean to kids” and found that far from being just me, the vast majority find these commercials mean and uncalled for. This doesn’t exactly inspire me to yank everything out of Huntington and put it into Ally. Amazingly they continue to run these commercials.

  23. Edward C. Maske
    September 4th, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    Aside from the exploitation of children, the setting itself is creepy. What is an adult male doing alone in a room with a young child that is not his son or daughter? I find the adult male actor to be completely obnoxious and the commercials to be plain repulsive

  24. David Carlile
    August 18th, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    The majority of you are a bunch of morons who want to read something bad into everything. Maybe it’s that you work at banks that try to fool all their customers the way these commercials point to. The kids are paid to be in the commercials and the whole idea is saying if kids know that a bank(or someone) is trying to pull a fast one over on them then everybody should. They are also trying to say that banks shouldn’t be doing that.

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