So attractive. So very cynical. Why should we ban Wonga’s ‘family’ TV commercials
A pretty blonde woman, holding a small child in her arms as she walks through a petting zoo, says, “I love my family. They mean the world to me. I love to take them out. We’re going to the park, we’re going to feed the ducks.
Birdsong fills the air as the woman plays with her toddlers on the swings.
“Having children absolutely changes your life, makes you realize that there are more important things in life than materialistic things,” she adds. “The most important things in life are the people in your life, rather than the things you own. That’s what I think.
A million miles from that healthy and heartwarming scene, in the oak-paneled surroundings of a select House of Commons committee, the men responsible for this ad were toasted by MPs yesterday.
Representatives from Wonga, QuickQuid and Mr. Lender appeared before the Business, Innovation and Skills Selection Committee yesterday to defend their increasingly fierce sales tactics.
In pointy costumes, they sat stiffly as they tried to explain why they all got so fabulously rich by charging people extremely high interest rates for instant loans.
You see, despite the artistic vagueness and spiel that money isn’t important, this touching portrayal of a young mom who loves her family is actually an advertisement for the Wonga money lender.
This is the company with a tearful annual percentage rate (APR) of 5,853 if calculated over an entire year – although the company says that because its average loan only lasts a few days, the APR does not apply and the real rate is much lower.
Representatives from Wonga and two other similar companies – QuickQuid and Mr. Lender – appeared before the Company Selection, Innovation and Skills Committee yesterday to defend their increasingly fierce sales tactics.
Indeed, the gulf between Wonga’s highly manipulative advertising and the reality of the product it pushes is a social evil that we can no longer ignore.
Take the company’s TV commercials, which are now familiar to millions of viewers.
They feature Wonga puppets animated by nice little old people with knitwear and slippers. When you watch them, it’s hard not to warm your heart at the sight of a group of fun loving retirees having fun while they hand out cash.
Which only shows how nifty this is a commercial. More perniciously, it appeals to the old and also – because of the puppets – to the young.
He tells retirees that this Wonga outfit is a friendly bunch that shares its old-fashioned values.
And if they weren’t convinced, using the 1950s hit Mr Sandman as the melody for a separate radio commercial with rewritten lyrics really wins out: ‘Mr Wonga / lend me some dough / Make- in the simplest loan I will ever make known. ‘
Wonga ads tell retirees this outfit is a friendly bunch who share their old-fashioned values
Children, on the other hand, would be so charmed by the puppets that they start repeating those eye-catching Wonga jingles and, more worryingly, pestering their parents into taking out loans.
Wonga’s simple logo and primary colors on the website – depicting a green field under a blue sky as drawn by a child – are not reminiscent of a kid’s cheese slice ad.
The company must know very well what it is doing with all of this. Wonga advertises during the day and around family programs when the kids are watching.
It’s the equivalent of putting candy at the cashier for the “Please, Mom!” »Effect. No wonder 14% of parents of children under the age of ten say their offspring harassed them to ask for quick money.
When asked in an interview last year about the practice of showing television commercials to young people, Wonga founder Errol Damelin seemed to suggest it was meant to be educational.
Even by the standards of payday loan companies, it’s breathtakingly cynical.
“It is important that children are educated about credit,” said Damelin, who last year reportedly owned shares in the company worth more than £ 33million. “I think they are hiding from people the reality that credit is a really important part of society.”
By this logic, we may as well advertise whiskey between episodes of Peppa Pig to enlighten toddlers about alcohol.
Payday Loan Companies Condition Impressionable Young People To Think It’s Okay To Borrow Money Quickly That They May Or Not Be Able To Pay Back, Because These Are Their Future Customers
So aren’t the leaders of Wonga just taking advantage of a trait that is already well established in our almighty society?
They should know that today’s young people are totally incapable of waiting for what they want. Instant gratification is the order of the day. Kids don’t want to diligently save their pocket money for an iPad or a new pair of sneakers. They want them now.
And so, kid-friendly Wonga ads have a dual effect: they encourage kids to nag their parents to deliver what they want instantly, and they further sow the seeds of materialism in the minds of our young people.
Payday loan companies were accused yesterday by financial experts of “treating” children this way, and I don’t think that’s too strong a term.
They condition impressionable young people to think that it is okay to quickly borrow money that they can or cannot repay, because they are their future clients.
What a vile business strategy. And how amazing they got away with it for so long.
Wonga’s latest ad campaign, which features a mother at the zoo, was shot by Bafta-nominated filmmaker Gary Tarn and aims to portray the “real people” who take out Wonga loans.
Thankfully, after an investigation by MPs, a conviction by government ministers, a damning report by the Office of Fair Trading and scrutiny by the Competition Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority, a crackdown on advertising payday lenders could now take place.
And not before the hour. These campaigns are so dangerous that they should be subject to a total advertising ban, as tobacco products were in 2003.
Indeed, there is good reason to say that the peddling of payday loans is just as bad as that of any highly addictive drug, whether legal or not.
Wonga’s latest ad campaign, which features this mother at the zoo, is perhaps the most hypocritical yet.
More Melissa Kite for the Daily Mail …
It was shot by a Bafta-nominated filmmaker – who surely should be ashamed of himself – and aims to portray the “real people” who take out Wonga loans.
But his bare cheek is stunning.
In the ad, the people who talk emotionally about their lives and their core moral values make absolutely no mention of Wonga or the dirty business of paying off a loan you took when you desperately need it.
You have to log on to a website called OpenWonga to find out that the zoo mother borrowed £ 200 to pay for flowers for two family funerals that took place in the same week. Her name is Angela, 33, from Dewsbury, and she paid back £ 235 including interest 14 days later.
The other 11 “inspirational” stories include a 19-year-old boy who talks about his passion for music.
Less inspiring, we then find out on the site that he borrowed £ 400 to pay his tuition fees and paid back £ 507.
A woman watching her sons play football for the Swindon Supermarines, it is reported, borrowed £ 375 for an unspecified purpose and paid back £ 438.
I looked at the soccer club’s website and found out that one of its official sponsors is (yes, you guessed it) Wonga.
But whether the stories are real and unscripted, as the company claims, doesn’t really matter in the end.
The effect of all this clever advertising from Wonga is to send the message that payday loans are normal and reasonable. That they are what ordinary, sane, sane people who love their families get out of them.
Such a notion is, of course, quite corrosive.
Wonga’s real message, as with other payday loan companies, can be found in the big Janet-and-John letters on his website: “Borrowing £ 111 + interest and fees £ 33.46 = total to repay 144, £ 46. Apply now. . . ‘
Or don’t, if you have some common sense.