Halifax called out for ‘community’ ad that airbrushed town

Halifax’s latest ad extolling the brand as being at the heart of the community has come under fire for airbrushing over a derelict high street.

For the filming of Halifax’s ‘It’s a People Thing’ TV campaign, released earlier this month, the bank decided to smarten up the high street of Goole by putting facades on empty shops, creating a fake cafe as well as a busy local market.

While Halifax has claimed this is common practice for filming commercials, the ad – which ‘celebrates community’ – has left viewers frustrated that it glossed over the deprivation locals are facing.

One resident, Florence Scott, called out the bank for claiming to be at the heart of the local community while simultaneously being “ashamed to show its branch down a struggling northern street.”

Scott said: “It’s jarring to see a version of the same street, with shoppers, a greengrocers and a market instead of empty derelict shops. Apparently some locals were upset because they saw the shoot and mistakenly thought new shops had opened until Halifax packed them up and drove off.”

Terence Smith, Goole’s former Labour mayor, said the ad should have shown “a proper Goole, not an airbrushed reality of our northern towns that are left behind.”

A spokesperson from Halifax told The Drum: “We’re proud to have filmed our latest Halifax advert in Goole and, while we preserved the scene featured as far as possible, we did have to make some digital edits for legal reasons, which are common when making television adverts.”

Ben Uttley, founder and chief exec of production company Stamp, said commercials are required to replace shop fronts due to copyright rules. However, Uttley said the backlash should serve as a reminder to brands and commercial makers to act more authentically.

“There is a growing demand from audiences for brands to act more authentically,” Uttley said. “If you are going to claim you are at the heart of the community and you put out ads like this you are going to get called out.”

Uttley, who has produced for the likes of Six Nations Rugby and Red Bull, said there are lessons to be learned “across the board that businesses need to make sure they are authentic and us as storytellers making the commercials need to be cognizant of what the message is.”

While Uttley maintained that Halifax wasn’t out to mislead audiences, he advised brands to be cautious that their ads stay “truthful” to the message they are portraying.