Short List
Category B01. Challenger Brand Strategy
Idea Creation 2 SERVICEPLAN US New York, USA
Production SCHOLAR Los Angeles, USA
Production 2 FORMOSA Santa Monica, USA
Production 3 CORDOVAN MUSIC Los Angeles, USA
Post Production SCHOLAR Los Angeles, USA
Additional Company SAINT ELMO'S Munich, GERMANY
Name Company Position
Alex Schill SERVICEPLAN GROUP Global Chief Creative Officer
Jason Romeyko SERVICEPLAN GROUP Worldwide Executive Creative Officer
Maximlilian Schöngen SERVICEPLAN GROUP Global Creative Strategist
Michael Wilk SERVICEPLAN GROUP Global Head of Art
Kevin Prösel Saint Elmo’s Experiential Managing Director
Stefan Schütte Serviceplan New York CEO
Paul Foulkes Serviceplan New York Art Director/Creative Director
Matt Ashworth Serviceplan New York Writer/Creative Director
Dennis Fritz SERVICEPLAN GERMANY Head of Film
Hendrik Sommerfeld Freelance Motion Designer
Bassel Hallak Freelance Musician
Tatiana Trikoz Freelance Illustrator
Kent Barton Freelance Illustrator
Cam Floyd Freelance Illustrator

Why is this work relevant for Creative Strategy?

For months, there has been a debate about the new face on the $20 note. In times of Black Lives Matter, the fall of the Capitol and the change of government, the VARO brand picks up the US zeitgeist with the topic of the $20 note and translates it into a creative campaign. We used the background noise on the topic and capitalized on a clearly understandable brand statement our Democratized Dollars campaign: Money should work for all of us. VARO – A bank for all of us.


Varo was founded for the millions of Americans left behind by traditional banks. A bank that empowers people by giving access to products & services they actually need, and that actually help them. In times of domestic unrest, democracy in upheaval, and an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, Varo's new brand campaign was about anchoring the company's purpose and ambition within society as a whole.

Interpretation (30% of vote)

The contrast between rich and poor is growing in the United States of America. For many low-income earners, financial opportunities and participation are simply not there. Not yet. Varo, America's first fully digital bank, is opening up to precisely this target group with the offer: money should work for all of us. The financial market in the States is highly dominated by many long-established brands, making it quite difficult for challenger brands. To make our brand philosophy loud and visible, we had to be smart with our budget. We used the highly discussed topic of the $20 note and made this financial asset work exactly for us. We hit the zeitgeist with our campaign and created a big bang in the finance segment. We took a clear democratic stand and created identification potential in our target group. As a logical consequence, the number of new contracts increased rapidly.

Insight / Breakthrough Thinking (30% of vote)

Varo Bank is a challenger brand in the long-established financial segment. We need to challenge the status quo, create accessibility and access to a new kind of banking, and finally, build trust in a sector that tends to be looked at critically. All this with a overseeable budget. So, our research started in the normal life of our target group: not in large amounts, hilarious credits, but in the most intangible achievable symbol: the $20 note. Our advantage: the media had been revolving around exactly this $20 note for quite a while. Our target group already had a natural interest in exchanging the face of the 20$ note - so why not go for the personal portrait without further ado? Our Democratized Dollars campaign was born. The fact that our campaign finally even helped to change the face of the $20 note is an outstanding brand success.

Creative Idea (20% of vote)

“Democratized Dollars” by VARO showcases financial opportunity and inclusion for everybody. The launch phase of the "A bank for all of us" campaign reimagines money and puts modern American consumers at the very core of the ultimate symbol for money: money.

Outcome / Results (20% of vote)

The momentum of the "Democratized Dollars" case perfectly reflected the zeitgeist in the USA: a high level of support for the Varo campaign led to high access rates to the website and significantly increased first-time contract signings by 146%. A strong increase in followers of Varos social media channels was also recorded. Halle Hutchison, Chief Brand Officer at Varo puts the result into the right words: “Central to the 'A bank for all of us' campaign are visual and verbal provocations of long-held financial conventions. By questioning the status quo and asking questions that are hyper-relevant in our culture - right now - the campaign lifts the American consumer into a position of power.

Please tell us about how the work challenged / was different from the brands competitors

Although the topic of the $20 note was accessible to any brand in the financial segment, it was VARO that actively took a stand on the discourse. This clear edge created identification potential and gave the American customer a sense of power for the first time, too. For the first time, we did not place a feature, a service or a product in the communicative focus of our brand, but a theme: Power to the people - Power to the money. We communicated this message clearly and distinctly, setting ourselves apart from the competition.