Good Design: RBC retirement ads


As tax season descends upon us like a late transit bus, commuters everywhere are being issued a friendly reminder from the Royal Bank of Canada that it might be a good time to think about RRSPs. While ordinarily a reminder like this during tax time might cause a little undue stress, RBC manages to use creativity, colour and simplicity to keep the message stress-free and well-received. If you haven’t already spotted these ads on billboard and bus shelters around Calgary and other Canadian cities, three snapshots are conveniently included below.

RBC’s outdoor RRSP ads play with numbers

The first item the viewer encounters is the creative (nay, ingenious!) twist of typography usage: words like “family,” “health” and “travel” are spelled out with numbers and symbols, employed backwards, upside-down and sideways. Each word is presented upon a blank field of warm colour, and the fine print is tucked away tidily in the white-and-blue swoops that are part of RBC’s consistent branding efforts.

Each ad is accompanied by a concise and simple message summing it all up: “Talk to an advisor about making your RRSP contribution this year,” it might read. Or perhaps: “Our advisors look for what’s important to you, so they can help you create a plan that fits. Speak to an advisor today.” By coupling a creative visual with a straightforward message, the ad has a very high chance of sticking in the viewer’s mind, and even being followed up on.

Each element in this ad speaks “non-intimidating.” It’s refreshing to see a non-traditional colour pallete employed: dimmer shades of summertime colours end up feeling warm, but not obnoxious. With the creative display of numerals and symbols, the ad can almost serve as a recruiting ad for RBC, suggesting that this bank values people who like to play with numbers.

All in all, the simple message, accessible design and creative presentation manages to get viewers into a good mood about money again. Suddenly, instead of numbers spelling out your doom, they’re spelling out words you care about. The ads serve as a reminder that whatever plans you’re making with your finances, it’s important to be working towards your values and dreams, not just wealth accumulation.

  • Shermel

    RBC clever ads uses that typographical lesson of cut out type and playing it. If only all advertisement was more about refreshing the eye then catering to the sex sells formula of todays one shot ads.

  • Norman VEP

    I agree with Shermel – there’s so much more that can be done by advertisers and I found that RBC did well with these ads. I think their entire campaign of RBC First is well done and appealing. I’m now a RBC customer… but only because they were the only ones who would approve my line of credit :)

    Have a grand day

  • Amy

    I think the designer who came up with the idea for this ad was sitting in their office, trying to put off the dull bank ad, daydreaming of the good ol days at school during boring math classes when they would try to spell things in their TI-83 scientific calculator and show their friends how clever they were. Thats what these ads remind me of…how clever I thought the first person that showed me you could make words out of numbers! It’s those “ah ha!” moments that make me excited about designing, and coming up with ideas that you know are just creatively perfect. And even more so, knowing how much of a nerd you are when you are excited about going through every font in your library trying to find the perfectly fitting numbers.
    Another thing I noticed is how RBC isn’t really trying to push their brand on viewers of this ad, judging by the size and placement of their logo. I think they are past the point of trying to get their name out there, and more want to draw customers in and choose their bank over others because they focus on “health, family, and travel”.
    Great Jaerb RBC.

  • Andrew

    I stopped and my jaw dropped. I may have left the bank having forgotten to make my deposit.

    I definitely left the bank wishing I had been that clever. The ads weren’t up long (or I don’t make many trips to the bank), I remember being disappointed the next time I dropped in to drop a cheque and they were gone.