Four out of the 30 shortlisted papers for this year's Warc Prize for Social Strategy were from financial services brands. For a sector renowned for uninspiring advertising, that's a pretty good result. Perhaps what's more surprising is that the four campaigns could not be more different, incorporating an insight-driven database, a content-rich campaign designed to simplify finance, a push for student accounts and a nudge to get thinking about your retirement years.

HSBC's 'The People You Will Meet At Uni WIll Shape Your Life', through We Are Social in London, targeted new undergraduates with a novel approach. It didn't involve a free railcard (the incentive offered by rival Santander) or more money on their overdraft or a good old-fashioned cash incentive (always welcome). Instead, it focused on the more emotional aspects of being a student, the fact that those years will pave the way for your adult life, not just in terms of what you study but in terms of your friends and peers the influence they will wield. While we were talking through the papers the other day, one judge mentioned he was involved with fundraising efforts at an American university and said: 'This tapped into a very powerful theme. I know how many people would say that their time at university changed their lives.' Business-wise, a different judge commented on how it 'pushed people down the funnel with different executions', while another saw potential as a long-term positioning for HSBC in trying to win favour with a student crowd. And if a bank manages to hook in an undergraduate, that's a huge win in the long-term, potentially leading to higher value transactions like mortgages and pensions.

Speaking of which, isn't the jargon around financial products completely impenetrable? UK high street bank Halifax agrees. Their positioning has always been around simplifying finance and giving customers 'extra'. This was clearly embodied in its 'Making Money Extra Easy' campaign through adam&eveDDB in London. Some 41 ready-to-view mobile videos were viewed over 9 million times, each one of them focusing in on a specific financial term and explaining it in 30 seconds in an easy-to-understand - but, crucially, non-patronising way. 'This campaign really understands the target audience, what they're looking for and how they're using social and helping them in the next step of their lives,' said one member of this year's judging panel. That is high praise indeed for a bank. Other judges commented on how the strategy employed by adam&eveDDB could easily be modelled by other brands. So even if you're not in the financial services sector, you could benefit from studying the approach taken by the Halifax.

Emirates NBD's The Beautiful After aims to frame retirement in a more engaging way than a good-looking pair of 55-year-olds enjoying a glass of fizz on board a cruise. The UAE-based bank recognised that people weren't saving enough for their twilight years and so transported younger couples into their retirement in an engaging, and highly shareable film. Many of this year's judges admired the assets that accompanied the film, such as encouraging couples to pledge their retirement vows to each other and a calculator to help dreams become realities in senior years. One commented: 'It's a difficult category to get anyone to engage with or be interested with so this was a great social idea that kicked off with emotional hero content.'

Finally, the judges have been considering Mastercard Engine, a data analysis system in Asia. 'The entire system is designed to inform strategy,' commented one judge. The system enables Mastercard to interpret social data and target more precisely. Among the many results listed in the paper, Mastercard claims a 200% uplift in sales for its key merchants. As part of the role of the Warc Prize for Social Strategy is to provide evidence of the link between social and business growth, Mastercard shows what can be done - even before the insights stage - to ensure that social strategy moves the needle.

The winners for the 2016 Warc Prize for Social Strategy will be announced at a free-to-attend after work event at We Are Social in London on Wednesday 21 September.