How the Canadian Big Five Banks Increased App Downloads by +46%

September 22, 2021
Financial Services

Key Takeaways

To increase mobile app usage, the Canadian Big Five Banks ran ads with the following messaging and tactics:

  • Safety & Security: Ensuring customers feel secure using online banking platforms.
  • Tips & Tricks: Providing tutorials on how to use various mobile banking features for those who are new to the app.
  • Mobile App Features: Highlighting unique and new mobile app features that are available.
  • Sending Money Abroad: Offering incentives to those who are sending money abroad via the mobile app. 
  • Ease & Convenience: Emphasizing how easy it is to register for online banking.
  • Acquisition: Acquiring new customers by offering online banking incentives.
  • COVID-19 Messaging: Helping customers feel safe during the times of COVID-19 through online banking services.
  • Apple Pay: Encouraging existing customers to set up their card with Apple Pay for quick checkouts.
  • Bank Anywhere: Highlighting the fact that users can bank from anywhere with the mobile app.
  • Mobile Card Lock: Helping customers feel secure by allowing them to lock access to their card virtually.

In August 2020, all Big Five Banks in Canada saw the largest spike in monthly app downloads. On average, app downloads saw a +46% increase across the board for all brands with TD in the lead seeing a +74% increase MoM.

*App download data contains Google Play Store only. Geo = Canada

Both TD and BMO focused their mobile app advertising efforts on YouTube while CIBC focused on Facebook. BMO spent the most on advertising their mobile app with a total ad spend of $533K.

Ad spend only takes into account advertisements that feature the mobile app. Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting, behavioural targeting or LinkedIn

To increase mobile app usage, the Canadian Big Five Banks ran ads with the following messaging and tactics:

Safety & Security.

With the sudden closures of in-person branches due to COVID-19, the safety of online banking became a great concern. The Big Five Banks ran ads that contained messaging about being able to bank securely from anywhere to reassure consumers about their mobile app and online banking platforms.

Spend: $16.8K | Imp: 4.0M | CPM: $4.19

Spend: $670K | Imp: 166M | CPM: $4.02

Spend: $8.1K | Imp: 2.1M | CPM: $3.87

  1. FAQ. RBC’s advertisement linked to an FAQ page that answered the most common questions asked about banking from home. Questions covered safety & security, online banking fees, and ease of getting started.
  1. Fraud & Scams. To provide reassurance to consumers who are new to online banking, BMO ran an ad that advertised their 100% Electronic Banking Guarantee.

Tips & Tricks.

Educational content helping users navigate through the mobile app was one of RBC’s top content buckets to increase app usage.

Spend: $10K | Imp: 2.5M | CPM: $4.03

Spend: $293K | Imp: 22M | CPM: $13.22

Spend: $100| Imp: 600 | CPM: $166

Tutorials. RBC aims to increase their mobile app usage by providing quick and easy tutorials on basic functions that are available on the app such as depositing cheques. The ad links to a tutorial page where users can learn how to download the app and pay their online bills.

“Secret” Tips. RBC launched a video containing tips and tricks that most people don’t realize are possible with the mobile app, such as:

  • How to give accounts a nickname
  • Setting up alerts
  • Sending money request reminders

Mobile App Features.

To differentiate themselves from competing mobile apps, banks like BMO and CIBC are advertising their unique mobile app features such as fraud alerts and identifying changes in recurring payments.

Managing Streaming Services. The BMO app monitors if there are any changes in recurring payments such as when free trials expire to help consumers manage their monthly streaming services.

Spend: $1.4M | Imp: 108M | CPM: $13.21

Spend: $135K | Imp: 10M | CPM: $13.22

Sending Money Abroad.

CIBC offered a $50 cash back on a user’s first global money transfer while Scotiabank advertised that consumers can send money around the world for no fee.

Spend: $131K | Imp: 31M | CPM: $4.24

Spend: $86K | Imp: 21M | CPM: $4.19

Spend: $67K | Imp: 14M | CPM: $4.64

$50 Incentive. To increase usage of their global money transfer feature, CIBC offered a $50 cash back promotion on the first transfer.

Personalized Ads. CIBC personalized their ads by including a specific geographic region in their copy (“take care of loved ones in the Philippines”) to advertise their global money transfer promotion.

Ease & Convenience.

TD ran an ad speaking specifically to their existing customer base highlighting the ease and convenience of registering for online banking.

Spend: $335K | Imp: 81M | CPM: $4.13

How to Register. In the main copy of the ad, TD emphasized that existing customers with a TD access card can easily register for online banking today.

Register in Minutes. Highlighting the amount of time it takes to register for online banking helps customers overcome the barriers of registering for such services. Customers who do not currently have online banking may put it off as they believe it is a complicated process.


To increase customer acquisition, BMO and TD offered incentives related to the mobile app such as unlimited transactions and free Interac e-Transfer.

Spend: $27.7K | Imp: 6.1M
CPM: $4.54

Spend: $507K | Imp: 102M | CPM: $4.95

Spend: $507K | Imp: 102M | CPM: $4.95

Spend: $3.2K | Imp: 760K | CPM: $4.21

COVID-19 Messaging.

During the challenging times of the pandemic, Big Five Banks ran ads that contained messaging about staying safe indoors and banking online. RBC in particular highlighted the fact that consumers can “pay bills from the comfort of home”, without having to visit any in-person branches.

Spend: $2.9M | Imp: 218M | CPM: $13.22

Spend: $57K | Imp: 14M | CPM: $4.09

Apple Pay.

The Big Five Banks encourage their existing customers to set up their cards with Apple Pay or Google Pay. BMO and TD highlight the Apple Pay feature which makes checkout easy. TD links to a landing page that explains how to use Apple Pay and where contactless payment is offered.

Spend: $4.1K | Imp: 936K | CPM: $4.38

Spend: $103K | Imp: 22M | CPM: $4.59

Bank Anywhere.

“Bank from anywhere, anytime” is a common phrase used by multiple Big Five Banks to encourage their existing customer base to download the mobile app. The TD Facebook ad links to a how-to guide on how to download the app.

Spend: $74K | Imp: 8.1M | CPM: $9.16

Spend: $83K | Imp: 20M | CPM: $4.18

Mobile Card Lock.

The mobile card lock is a unique feature that allows mobile app users to lock their cards remotely once they are lost. BMO spent $2 million on their YouTube mobile card lock advertisement.

Spend: $2M | Imp: 151M | CPM: $13.22

Spend: $15.6K | Imp: 3.1M | CPM: $5.03

Added by: 

Recent Case Studies

Scroll horizontally to view more case studies →