YNAB (You Need a Budget)
Anti-Apathy Creative Strategy


Creators Julie and Jesse used a set of four rules they found useful earlier in life for managing money which has now been developed into a repeatable system (2017).

The rules are:

1.Decide what you want your money to do before you spend it.

2.Break up larger, less-frequent expenses into manageable monthly bills.

3.Change your budget as needed.

  • Only spend money that was at least thirty days “old.”

YNAB (“why-nab”) was launched in September 2004 and is currently available as a web application and mobile app that allows anyone to track their money and follow the rules for themselves. The application is available as a 34 Day trial, then costs $50 USD per year. The YNAB website has a wealth of support information to help people succeed in applying the method to their own lives. Most people using the system report gaining control of their finances, paying down debt, and creating savings.


Apathetic people who don’t yet feel the need to worry about their finances.

People who struggle to manage their money and are unconvinced to pay proper attention to it.

  • Admin wary people who look for excuses to avoid solving problems

Tech savvy people who appreciate digital solutions and convenience


There is a sense of inner frustration that comes to the surface very quickly in many people if they don’t just leave their budgeting or other admin tasks in the too hard basket, and simply avoid them.

An example of an equally powerful moment of decision driving emotion is needed.


Not properly managing your money is a hilariously bad idea.


When you realise
Flawed approaches to maintaining financial peace of mind are shown to be common, while the moment of realisation something needs to be done is expressed in an honest and relatable way.

Hero videos give concrete descriptions of the moment 3 characters ‘realise’
they need a budget


Moments of realisation are expressed in their simplest form as print ads.

Single Image and animated video based executions are delivered in sponsored posts.

A month of savings cash prize winnable by all followers who comment.


Single Image and animated video based boosted and sponsored posts.
A month of savings winnable by all followers who comment.


Spotify Ads based on variation of voiceover of web video script


Existing and new subscribers will be encouraged to try YNAB and learn more about it in order to succeed in using it.

A month of savings will be on offer within 2 months of the campaigns launch winnable by all newsletter subscribers.



The outdoor advertisements are designed to sum up the moment of realization that “You Need a Budget” in a slightly cryptic visual that requires a few seconds to figure out. The themes explored in the outdoor ads will be reinforced in greater detail if the user views the website out of curiosity.

The outdoor ads work to both drive viewers to engage with the full campaign, as well as being relevant branding for You Need a Budget more broadly, as they plant the seed of whether someone may need a budgeting system requiring detailed justification. The incomplete nature of the ads headline and end line is an example of posing the scenario as a question.


The outdoor assets can be resized and repurposed on social media, where carefully edited versions of each posts copy will be delivered in sponsored and boosted posts. This will encourage users more likely to relate to the details in the full campaign to discover the campaign and visit the YNAB website.

YNAB already has an approach on social media to give more than you get and there is a wealth of helpful material already posted as well as a platform to listen and interact with users of YNAB and others interested in learning more.


The video executions are designed to add detail to the ‘When you realise’ campaign’s premise, using a lighthearted, conversational tone of voice, while revealing the strong emotion just under the surface. It is important that the videos explore the emotion behind this moment in detail as opposed to simply providing evidence about how much money or time can be saved by using the product.

The scripts in the videos, which can also be repurposed for Spotify are also delivered in a style similar to a comic anecdote.


“I woke up to the vague memory... that I had purchased 8 different skeleton costumes on eBay the night before.

They all seemed so cheap and It was hard to choose just one.

Then I realised they all had international shipping costs attached, and most would arrive after Halloween.”


“I was so lucky to find both these jobs that fit in around my study.

I just started another one as well… when the other two had gone quiet for a few weeks.

It seems like a lot of jobs are like that these days.

I guess there must be a way to make it work, at least I catch up on some study during the breaks.”


“I bit off more than I could chew.

It feels like it was just a blur of buying and paying for things

I either needed or wanted.

It’s obvious the number of debts, cards and loans I have now is bad, even though I don’t usually worry about numbers.”

The use of humour is executed in three key ways in the different video and Spotify executions, through the use of the unexpected, pain/risk of pain and exaggeration.

There is an example of the unexpected in the first video where someone has purchased 8 skeleton costumes, and many people may have a relatable experience of buyer’s remorse with an equally unexpected specific example in terms of the items being purchased. The second example is the use of pain or the risk of pain, as the story of the student attempting to maintain employment plays out like a tragedy with each sentence of detail. The third option is an exaggeration of the way many people treat debt and credit cards, with the character aware they have a problem, but their denial of the seriousness of it played up.


The “When you realise” page will match the formatting of the existing YNAB website, while delivering its own unique tone compared to the existing descriptions of the YNAB method, support, lessons and blog.

There is a focus on the gravity behind the moment you actually realise the importance of taking action with regard to your own budget and financial and mental wellbeing. Assets including elements from the outdoor campaign, cut down copy inviting you to find out more and individual vignette videos are the main content of the page.

These elements work in a similar way to the outdoor elements to further plant the seed required for viewers to start considering a system like You Need a Budget being necessary for them at some stage, however the page is also designed to funnel them to take action as soon as possible, or keep them connected via social media or email newsletter until they do take the first step.


Viewing the videos either individually or all together as a montage by clicking the larger play button at the top of the page all bring up a unique overlay as the video plays.

The user’s attention is focused on the video itself, with the rest of the page darkened. A compelling fact about the average savings of YNAB users is the end frame of the video, with viewers presented with two options: either ‘Try YNAB for 34 days’ or click the X to close the overlay.

Clicking the ‘Try YNAB’ button will present a new overlay offering immediate sign up as well as fast facts about the product itself, a preview of the more detailed content easily viewable in main parts of the YNAB website

Clicking the X to close the overlay presents a final overlay, this time presenting an offer to be entered to win a month worth of savings as a reward for signing up to YNAB’s email newsletter, or by following, and commenting on their choice of social media channel. The prize being equal to a month of someone’s budgeted expenses also provides incentive to try the YNAB product for themselves as it will allow the monthly prize figure to be calculated.

Care has been taken to put the most important stuff in the most important places and to invite people to get involved.




Traffic should flow to both the YNAB app in the form of trial sign ups as well as users who decide to continue on as paid users as well as viewers of support material on social media and the email newsletter.


The creative strategies being utilised throughout the campaign include an emotional approach, through the use of a humour strategy, honesty strategy and challenge strategy .The method of making the ideas stick is through storytelling using a mini movie or “Vignette” strategy. The role of storytelling takes centre stage as an example of: “Don’t just claim it, prove it.”. The point of view of the consumer is used as a vehicle to tell the story effectively. The aim of these elements is to express an honest, relatable, and entertaining point of view during all parts of the communication.

The bulk of the copy is not only written in a conversational style, it is also delivered from a regular person speaking in plain, simple language. Allowing YNAB to speak in a less preachy and overly formal way was a key objective of the campaign, so it was important to find a way to express this fully.

There is also a focus on audience engagement, with careful attention given to the interactive strategy used when the assets and link to product sign up and other material is within reach of the viewer on the dedicated web page for the campaign. YNAB’s existing social networking strategy of being helpful above all else has been considered as well as adding some enhancements to their use of social media as a tool to target and engage new users more effectively.


It is a difficult task to fast forward to the moment the target audience will realise for themselves that they are in need of what YNAB has to offer. Through storytelling it is possible to make the idea that this moment of realisation is inevitable without action and that it will carry significant emotional weight for many of us. This idea can be made to stick in the minds of many consumers who are yet to realise they need to act in the area of getting organised with their finances. Additional support material and engagement is ready to allow these customers to thrive once they take the first step. A new tone of voice (that of the customer themselves before they have seen the light and are most in need) can now be added to the available voices spreading the incredibly useful message that You Need a Budget.

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