TSB proves how local it is: by spelling the village's name wrong


TSB advert

TSB was launched with a fanfare this week. It's not a massive and faceless bank - the marketing explains - it's a local bank, in touch with the communities it serves. However, the community in Ashtead was left somewhat unconvinced, when a billboard was unveiled in the village - spelling it Ashstead.

So does this make the marketing disaster hall of fame?


The billboard was put up at the local station, saying "Hello Ashstead. Welcome to local banking TSB". The mistake was published in the local Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, and the publishing company tweeted that it was their most popular story in weeks.

The Epsom Guardian reported that the advert was quickly taken down, the evening after the report first hit. TSB also apologised on Twitter with an advert saying 'Sorry Ashtead'.

In a statement the company said: "We apologise to the local residents for the poster spelt incorrectly at Ashtead train station. We have now replaced the poster."

The fact that the marketing department weren't even sure of the spelling of the name of the village may not not give potential customers a huge amount of confidence that they are dealing with local experts.

However, the fact that the response was so fast, and so apologetic, may win many of them round.

Hall of fame

But how does this compare to other advertising faux pas? We reveal five of the most embarrassing for all concerned.

One rich source of shame is in advertising slogan translations. Most notably the slogan "Come alive with Pepsi" was translated for the Chinese market as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead." Parker Pens also ran into difficulties with the Spanish word for embarrass. In trying to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." It ended up saying "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."

Then there are the perils of product demonstration. Perhaps the most famous was when Bill Gates demonstrated Windows 98 to the world's media, and in the middle of the demonstration it crashed, and left everyone looking at what is commonly known as 'The Blue Screen of Death'.

The choice of figurehead can also be a tricky one. Payday lender Cash Lady discovered this when it brought former bankrupt Kerry Katona on board. It immediately fell foul of the Advertising Standards Agency, which ruled it was irresponsibly appealing to vulnerable people. The company re-shot the advert, but shortly afterwards dropped Katona from its advertising.

Swiftcover, meanwhile ran into trouble in 2009 for precisely the opposite reason. Adverts were banned because they used Iggy Pop, depicting him as having insurance from the firm. However, at the time it didn't cover musicians. The company swiftly changed the terms of its cover, but it's still used as the benchmark of advertising fails among banks and insurance companies.

Then there are the adverts which don't seem too offensive, and you can see how they made it through the internal screening process, but when they hit the public they somehow had the power to offend almost beyond reason. In 2011, the most complained-about advert in the UK went to a KFC advert, featuring people singing with food in their mouths. Apparently it was far worse than other adverts which made the shortlist that year - featuring nudity, horror and death.

With advertising fails on this scale, TSB clearly must try harder to make a dent on the hall of fame.