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December 2020

B2B TV ads: Who’s getting it right (and wrong)?

Has your TV viewing time and the depth of the bum dent in your sofa both increased over the last few weeks? Ours has. Can’t think why…

But in amongst those extra minutes and hours in front of the box we’ve noticed something. A trend if you will. There seem to be more and more ads appearing aimed at a “business” audience.

Maybe they were always there but we just weren’t watching telly enough to notice. Or maybe we truly have our fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

Either way, we thought we’d cast our eye over 5 of those B2B TV ads we’ve seen popping up and give them a bit of a Sharper analysis to see if they’re a hit or a miss. Anyone from HiHi, please look away now.

Seen any others you’d be keen for us to include in the mix? Drop us a line and we’ll get to it.

Intuit Quickbooks – “We Mean Business”

Confident, direct, a bit tongue in cheek. These are great ads.

There are two variants of their “We mean business” ads featuring the team of ‘Teeny tiny hard-nosed Quickbooks people’ out there at the mo. Both are delightful. Why? Because they clearly show that Quickbooks understands business owners on a human level. You know… as people, not just faceless businesses.

On the surface of it accounting software is a hard sell because it’s immediately perceived as dull. Rightfully so.





But Quickbooks quickly move beyond the “what” of the solution to the “why” it exists – to help business owners run their business (whilst fending of cheeky seagulls) and/or not lose any sleep worrying about finances.

Sure, they reference the various things the software helps with (twice) but even that’s quick and the second time it’s done over a killer guitar riff with the words on screen to help it stick. All in all, delightful stuff.

Now let’s smash the battered sausage out of this financial quarter!


Xero – “Beautiful Business”

Accounting software is clearly the place to flex your muscle if you want to get creative with your ads. (Which makes sense. If you’re in a crowded market that’s seen as perennially unsexy you’ve got to do something different to stick out, right?)

And we’re big fans of Xero’s kind-hearted little robot helper because of it.

Where Quickbooks have focused on doing business better and all the good things that happen there, Xero have taken a different (but no less valid) angle and looked at what else you can do outside of “business” when your time’s freed up because you’ve been using the software.




Cue a delightfully 80’s montage (with accompanying soundtrack) of frisbee and fun fair based shenanigans. Clearly, it’s all just a pipedream in lock down times, but it at least gives you a nice fuzzy feeling and introduces an element of “fun” that’s sadly missing from a lot/most of B2B marketing.

By the end of the ad we know what Xero does, how it’ll help us, and we’ve been entertained in the process.

That’s a great hat-trick to deliver in 30 seconds.


Funding Circle – “Running a Business is a Journey”

This is a bit of a weird one for us.

The message behind the ads is solid, the visuals are pleasing to the eye, and the voiceover and soundtrack are stirring. But when the three elements are brought together in the same ad they feel like they rub up against each other in a weird way.

There’s nothing wrong with this ad at all, but it just feels like it’s wound up less than the sum of its parts somehow.





If you kept the script for the ad and the dude with the floppy quiff as is but used some bouncier/lighter/friendlier music and voice over it would feel more cohesive.

Similarly, if you stuck with the stirring voiceover/music and kept the script, maybe dialling down the cartoonish nature of the visuals and making them suitably dramatic would bring it all together a bit more.

We’ve got no beef with this ad as it tells a story nicely and positions what Funding Circle do well, but just a small change here and there to bring the separate elements of the ad together would give it just that extra bit of oomph.


HiHi – (We’re not quite sure)

This one really grinds our gears. Why? Because as an ad it perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with B2B marketing right now.

It’s trying so hard to be inoffensive that it’s become offensively bland because of it. Insipid dialogue? Check. Overly staged scenes? Check. Focus placed entirely on the product and the functions it has rather than any communication of the value it adds? Double check.

We’ve seen the ad a few times but (if we’re being honest) can’t really remember exactly what happens in it.

There was possibly a bit where the unthreateningly handsome man couldn’t talk to the unthreateningly beautiful woman or something so he popped out the tablet that’s part of the HiHi unit and everyone lived happily ever after or whatever. Maybe.


Now, HiHi is clearly a decent product and the ad obviously cost a lot to make but it’s wound up so middle-of-the-road even Coldplay fans would say it’s boring. It just feels like a missed opportunity and a waste of time, effort and budget to us.

SIDE NOTE: Someone at HiHi may have twigged this as well because we can’t actually find a link to the ad anywhere online (or maybe it was all just a lock-down induced fever dream?)

But we’re not about just tearing down other people’s hard work. Criticism always needs to be constructive. So how could HiHi do better next time around?

  • Put value over function. No one really cares WHAT something does they care about how it makes their day better (or less worse). You can pop out a tablet and walk around with it… so what?
  • Focus on the intended audience. If you create something for “everyone” you create something for no one. You haven’t got to offend anyone but you should make it clear you’re for certain people and not for others.
  • Find a pain paint and address it in a human way – not a “business” way. Maybe HiHi can be deployed like a ninja side kick to help people stealthily avoid all the WFH distractions? Or a tiny wizard who makes sure you’re connected with some HiHi magic? Just a bit of something that actually connects with people.

If anyone from HiHi’s reading this, drop us a line. We should have a chat…


Sumup – “Here’s Simple”

HiHi should pay attention to this one.

This Sumup ad succinctly tackles the challenges people running businesses face with taking payments in an upfront, but not overly negative way and then offers a solution.

It’s much more about showing they understand the life of a business owner and can help them remove the complexity that they see as unnecessary. Key to this ad is that you don’t see a Sumup device until right at the end. It’s not about Sumup, it’s about how they can help.



Now, clearly it’s all staged and the people in the ad are all actors (because non-photogenic people don’t run businesses, right? Our MD is proof to the contrary), but it still feels very human. There are even the subtle nods to PPE and COVID measures in there to give it a grounding in our current reality too.

The quick cuts between scenes, and the upbeat (but not over the top) music keeps you engaged throughout the ad and the shift that happens when the actors look directly down the camera gives you a clear indication that a pay off is coming.

It’s a well thought out and well executed ad that tells a story relevant to the target audience and delivers right the way through to the final tag line of “Here’s Simple”.

Lovely stuff.

Feeling more HiHi than Xero with your B2B marketing?

 Let’s have a chin wag and see if we can fix that.