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Ads across the country featuring The Crown star Dominic West were banned for misleading consumers into thinking the bank – unlike its rivals – would not close its branches.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the TV, radio and print adverts, in which West plays the boss of a fictional rival to Nationwide, following 282 complaints.

One of them was from Santander, which understood that Nationwide had recently closed or reduced the opening hours of several branches and disputed whether the advertisements were misleading.

In the television ad, West, 54, who recently played Prince Charles on The Crown as well as Jimmy McNulty on The Wire and Noah Solloway on The Affair, jokes about a large expense bill for a company lunch before heading to talk about cuts and branch closures.

When a colleague says that Nationwide – seen from the window overlooking the road – isn't closing branches, West responds: 'We're not Nationwide, are we?'

A voiceover at the end says: “Unlike the big banks, we are not closing our branches,” while on-screen text says: “Publicly shared branch closures at Lloyds, Bank of Scotland/Halifax, Natwest, Barclays, Santander and HSBC.” '

The radio ad featured a similar conversation, with the colleague saying: 'Boss, news from around the country' and 'They've just confirmed they're keeping branches open', before a voiceover saying: 'Unlike the big banks, we're not close our branches.'

Dominic West's Nationwide ad banned (Photo: Nationwide)
West played Prince Charles in The Crown (Photo: Netflix/AP)

The press advert featured the text: 'Going, going, nowhere' and 'Unlike the big banks, we are not closing our branches'. The fine print at the bottom of the ad said, “If we have a branch in your city, we'll still be there until at least 2026.”

Nationwide said it launched its original branch pledge in 2019 to not leave a town or city where there is no other nationwide branch, and reinforced it in 2023 to ensure it would not close any of its branches until at least 2026.

The bank told the ASA it had closed 20 branches in the last 18 months, including two in 2023, but it had the largest remaining number of branches of 10 banks and closed the smallest percentage of its assets.

They also provided an article from consumer magazine Which?, which recommended Nationwide as a building society for consumers who still valued face-to-face contact.

The ASA said viewers were likely to miss qualifications in announcements that the bank's Branch Pledge would be in place until “at least 2026”.

The ad was banned for 'misleading customers' (Photo: Nationwide)

It also understood that in the 12 months prior to the advertising campaign, Santander had closed fewer branches than Nationwide and, at the time the advert was seen, Santander had not announced that it would close branches in the future.

The ASA said: 'We recognize that over a 10-year period, compared to other financial institutions, Nationwide closed the smallest percentage of assets of any financial institution.

«However, we noticed that, even so, they had closed 20% of their assets, which was equivalent to 152 agencies, and we considered that it was a significant number that had been definitively closed.

'We also understand that since Nationwide launched its original Branch Promise, in the 18 months since July 2022 they have permanently closed 20 branches. Of these 20, 14 were closed in the 12 months prior to the campaign, with two of them being closed in 2023.'

The ASA concluded: 'As above, we understand that Nationwide's Branch Promise was only valid until 2026, at which point Nationwide could begin closing branches permanently.

Dominic West

In the clip, West jokes about a large expense bill for a company lunch before talking about cutbacks and branch closures. (Photo: Across the country)

“We considered that factors relating to past and recent branch closures and the effect on future branches in the long term would likely be significant to consumers when making decisions about choosing Nationwide, in the context of the claims made in the advertisements that Nationwide did not were closing their branches.

'Because we considered that consumers would understand from the advertisements that Nationwide would not close branches in the long-term future and that they had not closed branches recently, we concluded that the advertisements were misleading.'

The watchdog ruled the adverts should not appear again in their current form, adding: “We have told Nationwide Building Society not to mislead in relation to the closure of its branches.”

A Nationwide spokesperson said: 'We acknowledge the ASA's decision and are delighted to have the opportunity to make our now extended pledge to keep all branches open until early 2028 even clearer.

“The investment we've made to keep branches open means we now have more than any other brand and are last in more than 90 communities.”

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