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Why a Bank Used Furry Friends to Help Canadians Face Financial Fears


Courage CCO and co-founder Joel Holtby, with CIBC’s Tammy Sadinsky discuss the difficulty of financial discussions, and why friendly dogs were the perfect solution to make this easier, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Why a Bank Used Furry Friends to Help Canadians Face Financial Fears

Once the holiday revelry has faded, and the new year well and truly gets under way, the stress of day-to-day living can feel downright overwhelming. This is especially true financially, with holiday bills coming due, rental leases getting renewed and rising, and, as a whole, cost of living having never been higher. It’s a lot to think about, not much fun to talk about, and for many Canadians, it’s not only the top source of stress in their lives, but debilitating to the point where they simply avoid thinking or speaking about financial planning altogether. 

This, of course, is not a good way to actually solve the problem. And it’s something that Canadian bank, CIBC is more than well aware of. So, in partnership with Canadian agency, Courage, the two marked their first piece of work together by seeking to make the money conversation a little less stressful. Enter CIBC’s ‘Financial Stress Companions’ - an experiment where the bank brought in therapy dogs to sit with and comfort clients who had been putting off talking about their finances.

As is evident by the delighted reactions in the video, which were captured live, featuring actual CIBC clients, there may be something to this method, which has since been broken down into 30 and 15-second TV spots, as well as online via social videos. 

To learn more, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Courage co-founder and CCO, Joel Holtby, and CIBC senior vice-president of brand and marketing, Tammy Sadinsky, discussing the creative process, the new brand/agency partnership, and naturally, where the dogs came from. 

LBB> This represents the first piece of work from the CIBC/Courage relationship. What was the brief, what immediate ideas came to mind, and why was Courage the right agency for the job?

Tammy> It wasn’t so much a brief, but rather, a conversation. We know that post-holiday season, financial stress is at its peak – something even more pronounced this year. We wanted to find a unique way to show Canadians we understand how they feel, and that we’re the right advice partner to help ease that stress. The team at Courage immediately understood the tension, the need to show up differently, and the importance of getting this to market at a time when Canadians need real talk about their money. 

Joel> We had a really open discussion about the concerns that Canadians are facing today with inflation, economic pressures, and a potential recession coming down the line. We want to show Canadians that a bank can understand both the way they’re feeling, as well as the fact that talking about money can feel like such a stressful thing - hence why so many Canadians avoid it. The catch was that we were briefed at the end of October and collectively wanted to be on air in early January, so we knew we needed to move fast.

LBB> To learn about the financial stresses Canadians face, what was the research process like? What did you find, and what were the key takeaways?

Joel> We did a lot of digging into the fact that overall, Canadians just don’t like to talk about money, and the way that truth affects our everyday lives - from our relationships with our partners, to our children’s relationship with money, to the success rates of our small businesses. Add to that the current chatter around inflation and recession, and it was the perfect time to try and help Canadians overcome their stress around their financial situations.

Tammy> Our 2022 annual ‘Financial Priorities’ poll showed that inflation, rising interest rates, and recessionary fears were the top money concerns for Canadians, and that overall sentiment towards finances weakened in the last year. Despite Canadians feeling uncertain, 80% reported not having had a goal-planning discussion with their financial advisor in the last year. We used qualitative research to dig into why these conversations aren’t happening, and found, overwhelmingly, the fear of starting this conversation was holding people back. 

LBB> How did the idea of bringing in therapy dogs to sit with people discussing their finances come to pass? What made it the right solution to create more conversations?

Joel> We started by thinking about what CIBC could do to ease that financial conversation and get Canadians to feel comfortable talking about something that is quite stressful to many. What we realised was that dogs were a fun, lighthearted way to get people to feel good about the conversation. We loved the idea of a ‘CIBC Experiment’, and moving forward, we’re excited to bring more ways to encourage people to talk about money.

Tammy> This was the first idea we saw, and we all fell in love with it! We knew money stress was going to be particularly high in this current moment, and introducing the dogs felt like the perfect way to break through and show Canadians how a conversation with our advisors could help. 

LBB> A big goal of this campaign was to start a conversation, without it being preachy. How did this factor into the creative process?

Joel> At the end of the day, we want people to feel like we see them and understand them. It’s not about pointing fingers, but about figuring out ways to shed light on the fact that no one should feel shame for talking about their money, or what they know (or don’t know) about their finances.

Tammy> Canadians have a lot on their minds right now, and we couldn’t lose sight of that. Every step of the creative process was rooted in empathy for our clients, and the desire to show how an advice conversation with CIBC can help them today.

LBB> Where did the dogs come from, and what was working with them like?

Joel> We worked with a professional dog wrangler to figure out what kind of dogs would have the right temperament to best help people with high levels of stress, and made sure that they were St. John Ambulance certified dogs, who were all very good boys and girls.

LBB> Where did the filming itself take place, and how did that go?

Joel> We filmed in a local CIBC banking centre while they were open for the day, being careful not to disrupt the normal day-to-day activities of the banking centre or the CIBC employees. The spot features real advisors, customers and conversations between the two.
Tammy> Our priority was capturing the magic of what our advisors do every day – helping our clients understand their money. Our team worked hard not to disrupt the day-to-day operations, so everyone who came into the banking centre that day could get the help they’d come for.

LBB> What has the response to the campaign been like?

Tammy> We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our own team members, clients and Canadians. People see themselves in this work – in the money anxiety and the power of a conversation to tackle it, and in our furry companions’ ability to help reduce stress. 

LBB> What lessons have you learned from the making of this campaign?

Tammy> Great ideas can come to life quickly when you have a team that believes in them, and are working towards the same goal!

LBB> In the coming months, this work will be followed up to establish and build CIBC’s platform. Can you tell us anything about this, and what to expect?

Joel> We want more Canadians to feel like they can talk about money in a way they haven’t before - and are developing more work to encourage them to do so.

Tammy> We’re excited to continue talking to Canadians about their money, and to show why CIBC is the right advice partner for them. 


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Courage , Thu, 19 Jan 2023 16:41:21 GMT