We started with a question. What if people talked openly about money?

Then we hired Errol Morris to answer it for us. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker; auteur of the upcoming Netflix series “Wormwood”; father of Hamilton, who does a show on Vice about drugs (and whom his father interviewed for this campaign). What would we admit about our relationships to money? What stories would we tell? Would it be the first step toward finding a financial way forward? Or at least not being afraid to confess what we don't know? Errol has a knack for getting people to open up about things. If he got the architect of the Vietnam War to open up, he certainly would be able to get a regular human to open up about their finances. (We hoped.)

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris

You may be asking: why do we care about what regular people think about money? Shouldn't we care more about what financial geniuses and well-dressed robots think about money? Well, yes. But Wealthsimple was founded with the simple goal to make world-class investing tools available to anyone. Regardless of your background, your gender, your net worth, your feelings about avocado toast; regardless of whether you're 18 or 81; regardless of whether you mine your own Bitcoin or don't even know what Bitcoin is. The whole company is dedicated to serving the needs of human beings without all the smokescreens, fees, obliqueness, salesmanship, and, to put a fine point on it, bullshit of your traditional investment firm. We were, in other words, investing for humans before we were Investing for Humans.

Then We Interviewed 250 People

The next step was to assemble a few hundred people. People of every income tax bracket, color, political leaning and facial hair type. And especially women, who've been notoriously underserved by the financial industry. We didn't want actors in this commercial. We didn't want people who'd been coached. We wanted real people, completely unscripted. It was a calculated risk: whatever happened, we wanted to address people's actual worries and dreams. But the truth is we started out thinking we'd make sensible commercials about investing intelligently (and simply). And after interviewing all those people, we couldn't help throwing all that away and concentrating on the humanity.

And Errol Morris wasn't going to make commercials about how easy it is to rollover your retirement account to Wealthsimple, anyway. When we hired him (we don't use an advertising agency here; we produce everything ourselves from our creative office in New York City), we gave him a list of questions, which we quickly figured out he was never going to ask. Errol Morris is philosophically opposed to bringing any written questions into an interview. He didn't want to know what to expect. He's also a pretty fierce, irascibly independent-minded artist. He wasn't going to let us tell him what to do no matter what.

Core Human Feelings About Money As Extracted by the Guy Who Directed "The Thin Blue Line"

From those 250 interviews, we saw some patterns. Almost everyone — old people, young people, broke people, extremely wealthy people — had surprisingly similar concerns, hopes, dreams, freak-outs. Here's a list what we kept hearing, over and over again:

  • Everyone, and we mean everyone, is anxious about doing money right.
  • People want to invest according to their values. Whether those values are ethical or religious or both.
  • Everyone thinks someone else is doing something smarter with their money than they are.
  • People wish someone, anyone, would have taught them more about money sooner.
  • People don't love big banks, and don't feel great about giving their money to “finance dudes.”
  • People would rather not fund “evil” things if they can help it.
  • Everyone wishes people were more open, transparent, and honest about money.

We Picked 20 People and Four Really Cool Colors

The videos we are releasing into the world feature 20 people. People who are finally starting to make a lot of money. People who decided never to make a lot of money but to help the world instead. People who were born into wealth and lost it all. People who came of age during the financial crisis and were shaped by the anxiety. People who dream of retiring in style, leaving money to their kids, or just understanding their own financial statements.

And yes, we got really serious about the background colors. We couldn't decide if we wanted to call the yellow “burnt marigold” or “the sunniest mustard.”

We filmed these people over three days. And photographed them with the help of the brilliant Neil Bedford.

We worked with our favorite editor, Biff Butler at Rock Paper Scissors, who spent a month with us in a dark room.

We were hoping to get between 8 and 10 commercials. We walked away with 56 of them.

Watch Them on the Internet. Or During the Emmys. Your Choice.

Watch them all. Twice. The campaign will be shown across Canada and in select US markets on TV, online, and on billboards that you can see while you're driving.

And invest like a human.

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