Backlash over 'single-shaming' banking ad

By Robert Plummer
Business reporter, BBC News

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Revolut adImage source, Iona Bain

Financial technology company Revolut has been accused of "single-shaming" after its current promotional campaign sparked a backlash on Twitter.

The company, which launched in 2015, bills itself as an alternative to banks and offers app-based current accounts.

One ad highlighted the number of people who ordered a takeaway meal for one on Valentine's Day last year.

After it was criticised as "intrusive" and "tone-deaf", Revolut has apologised and said it did not mean to poke fun.

Financial commentator Iona Bain, who was among the first people to draw attention to the ads, said it was patronising and unworthy of a firm trying to attract young, tech-savvy customers.

"It doesn't tell you anything about the service," she told the BBC.

"It just says they will spy on your spending, so people can laugh at your poor unfortunate single status later on."

Image source, Iona Bain
Image caption,
Iona Bain is founder of the Young Money Blog

Ms Bain, founder of the Young Money Blog, tweeted that the ad's language was "more redolent of early 2000s Bridget Jones" than "a modern and empowered fintech brand".

"I knew a lot of people would agree with me, but I have been surprised by the amount of responses," she said.

She said that those supporting her comments included widows who found such ads unhelpful at this time of year.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"A meal for one, that's a perfectly valid life choice," she added. "It's not their business to be shaming anyone for making that choice."

More importantly, she said, it also played on people's concerns about improper use of their data and whether their financial activity was private.

"It's not just something that triggers a few snowflakes on the London Underground," she added.

Image source, Revolut
Image caption,
Revolut founder Nikolay Storonsky says his organisation is adding up to 8,000 customers a day

Revolut offers a current account service which allows people to make and receive payments, withdraw money from cash machines and transfer money abroad.

It was not a bank when it started, but it announced in December that it had been granted an EU banking licence by the European Central Bank. It still aims to acquire a full UK banking licence.

It has already attained the status of a tech "unicorn" - a term used to describe private start-ups valued at more than $1bn (£740m).

Revolut's head of global marketing and communications, Chad West, said the offending ad was one of four that had been running and was due to come down anyway.

He said that while the other three had been well liked on social media, the fourth one had unfortunately given the impression that the company was "taking the mickey out of people".

"We did not pay enough attention to the copy and the tone," he said. "Some people will call that out and we get that."

He said the company promised to learn from the experience and be "more careful" in future.