Ally's 'The Big Save' AR game offers a money-conscious challenge to Super Bowl excess

Fans can win real cash toward their savings goals by playing during ad breaks.

As wages stagnate and earnings flow to the top of the money chain, individual savings aren’t keeping pace with the financial demands of everyday life. Over half of Americans couldn’t afford a surprise bill over $500, and nearly 70 percent have less than $1,000 in the bank. But you wouldn’t know it from the Super Bowl, when brands plunk down an average of $180,000 (almost six times the median U.S. income) per second on their in-game spots. 

Today, online bank Ally, which focuses on low-fee, high-interest savings accounts, announced its first foray into the Super Bowl melee: "The Big Save," an augmented reality game that’s only available during ad breaks—precisely when brands are vying for consumers’ dwindling cash with those big-budget commercials.

That’s the whole point, said Ally Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Brimmer. "The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest days of consumerism of the year, so the juxtaposition between that level of spend and what we do—which is get people to think about their savings and the true value of their money—is an interesting time for us." 

Created by Grey, Ally’s agency of record, and production company MediaMonks, the game prompts users to enter a big savings goal—down payment for a mortgage, engagement ring, college fund—and then, during the breaks, grab falling bills to rack up points. The highest-scoring players can enter for a chance to win real cash toward their stated goal. 

This is also the first time Ally has used AR in a campaign, which is a promising way to redirect consumers’ attention from the cash grab on their TV screens. "Like every other CMO, I think we’re all struggling with what’s the right tech to add to the market and when," Brimmer said. Ally chose this execution for its AR debut partially because it’s an effective way to redirect consumers’ attention, but also because the tech has finally become commonplace. "People are getting more comfortable interacting with [AR], and it’s an enjoyable tool for an entertainment forum like the Super Bowl, so we felt like now was the right time," she added.

With its straightforward approach and heartfelt messaging—spots about real-life Ally customers’ savings goals accompany the game—"The Big Save" is a departure from Ally’s 2017 campaign. "Seriously Anything" deployed humor and the occasional celebrity to get across the message that Ally was willing to do anything to stop its customers from wasting money. That’s a more familiar tone for a Super Bowl ad, but because Ally’s brand identity, Brimmer said, is "a straightforward bank that does right by you and your money," that didn’t feel like the right approach for their first Big Game activation. 

"There are a lot of people in this world struggling to make ends meet, so for us to go out and spend lavishly on a Super Bowl spot didn’t feel right to us," she said. "Having an emotional, engaging, authentic message felt true to our brand, rather than trying to compete on a stage of glitz and glamour."

Even after the game itself expires, Ally plans to incorporate its promotion of "money mindfulness" into ongoing campaigns centered on financial education and awareness. Last year Ally released an Alexa skill that told users how many hours they’d have to work at their current salary to afford an item they were considering buying; this year, said Brimmer, they’ll be publishing more blog content about financial literacy and debuting another disruptive activation around the holidays—another time when brands want customers to splurge.

"This is stage one for us for trying to dimensionalize our brand," she said. "We’re really going to keep it going."

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