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Nationwide's Dominic West advert banned by watchdog

A Nationwide advert featuring actor Dominic West that claimed the building society was not closing branches has been banned.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said in fact that Nationwide had been closing branches.

It was also not clear enough that a Nationwide promise not to close any more would end in 2026, the watchdog added.

One of the complaints against the ads had been made by Santander.

The bank had been referenced in the ads, but said it had closed fewer branches than Nationwide in the year before the ad campaign.

Banks have been closing branches for a number of decades. In the mid-1980s there were more than 21,000 branches, but this had more than halved by the 2020s.

More recently, banks have been saying that changing customer habits and increasing use of online banking have meant less demand.

However, branch closures have hit many groups of people, including those with disabilities, older people, those living in rural areas, and small businesses, according to a recent House of Lords report.

The Nationwide ad campaign featured Dominic West as the boss of a fictional big bank who mocks customers while planning branch closures. Mr West has previously played Jimmy McNulty in popular series The Wire and Prince Charles in Netflix's runaway hit series, The Crown. The ads ran on TV, the radio, and in the press.

In the ad, the fictional bank is contrasted with Nationwide, with the slogan: "Unlike the big banks we're not closing our branches."

'Misleading'

The ads called out Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Bank of Scotland and Halifax, as well as Natwest, Barclays, Santander and HSBC.

The ads had 281 complainants, including from Santander, which said that Nationwide had recently closed or reduced opening hours at a number of branches, and challenged whether the ads were misleading.

Santander closed six branches in 2023.

By contrast, Nationwide closed two branches in 2023, but had closed 14 branches in the 12 months prior to the campaign.

Over a 10-year period, Nationwide closed 152, or 20% of its branches. Although this was a smaller percentage than the competitors it called out in its ads, it was still a "significant number", the ASA said.

In addition, Nationwide made a "branch promise" in 2019 not to leave a town or city where there is a branch, unless there are "circumstances outside of our control".

The building society updated this in 2023, committing to not close any branches until at least 2026. It then extended that until 2028.

The ASA found the ads had not made it clear enough that this promise was potentially only short term.

Nationwide said: "The investment we have made to keep branches open means we now have more than any other brand and are the last one standing in more than 90 communities."

A spokesperson added that the building society was "delighted to have the opportunity to make even clearer our now extended branch promise to keep every branch open until the start of 2028".