Sound of by
One Hand Counting Money"
| An advertising campaign
for some bank or financial planning company begins each of their commercials with
a question: "What can ---------- teach us about -------? |
"What can a sports stadium without sufficent restrooms teach us about retirement?"
or "What can a child's shoe thrown from a moving vehicle teach us about pensions?"
"Us" in these ads is not just you and me. They would have you believe there is
an army of bankers and money managers riding around on double-deck buses taking
notes on cultural phenomena and life in general. "What can a drive-by shooting
teach us about saving?" Hmmm. How about: "If you're dead, you can't spend it."
narrator answers these weighty questions immediately after they are asked, giving
the viewer little time to make a sarcastic suggestion. Where's the fun in that?
The answers are meant to provoke thought - at least until the appearance of the
next commercial. The ads might be successful; but the answers are so profound
- that I can't remember the company's name.
The voice asking the profound
questions isn't shown. His voice has a patient and instructive tone - like that
of a wise monk. It's a little like the 1970s televison series Kung Fu. "What can
twenty-six circus performers on one bicycle teach us about annunities, Grasshopper?"
We have to wonder how would the voice be dressed if shown? Would he be
wearing a saffron-colored robe or a Brooks Brothers suit? A pin-striped saffron
The first commercial in this seemingly never-ending series shows
a couple in evening wear canoeing down a mirror-like river at dusk toward a lighted
mansion. The company might be suggesting that they've finally figured out how
their clients can take "it" with them. Does the mansion represent heaven? Slipping
through heaven's back door is pretty shrewd, you must admit. For one thing you
don't have to tip the parking valet. On the other hand, river mud might cause
a slip on the marble floors. The canoe is low in the water, suggesting it may
be laden with bags of gold coin which the paddling investors will be spending
eternally in (duty-free) heavenly boutiques.
On the other hand, the river
might be the Styx and the lighted mansion might be Hell's welcoming station. The
money would still be handy. It could be used for bribes (seating away from politicians
and lawyers, ice water, etc.). But if it is indeed Hell, there would surely be
surly canoe valets who would pull you to shore with their pointed prehensile tails
and then proceed to take their tip.
"I just don't think that I
should have to watch this commercial."
How about the ad where a woman
tells a banker "I just don't think I should have to pay for that." After first
looking bewildered to the long list of services that she "just feels" she shouldn't
have to pay pay for, the banker appears to be going for a gun, but instead pulls
out a form (reserved for the rare smart depositor) and finally says "Neither do
we." We all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the awkward moment has been
defused. This particular ad was evidently so successful that they made a sequel.
In the second ad the same woman is home packing. She's either moving into a bigger
house because she's been promoted for being so smart or she's moving because of
death theats from the banker who lost his job for not squeezing service charges
out of her. She's telling a man (either a husband or a hired mover): "So, do you
know what the bank-guy (not banker, but bank-guy) said when I told him I didn't
want to pay for anything?" The cynical husband/ moving-guy offers "Bye?" The woman
frowns at his cynical attitude and says: "No, he said he didn't think so either."
The man then tilts his head in the way dogs do when you talk to them in a strange
"I'm not really Abraham Lincoln, I'm just a Raymond Massey
Some of the companies in these ads don't just manage money
- they manage "wealth." Take my word for it, people to whom the term "wealthy"
applies have had money managers for years - probably for generations. They're
Finally there's a company with ads featuring a (pretty
good) Lincoln-impersonator who (depending on the commercial) is either advising
a man on his golf game or piloting a retired couple through the canals of Venice.
It might seem disrespectful to have our beloved Lincoln portrayed in this manner,
but please notice that in these ads Lincoln is advising, not merely caddying.
He is also shown catching a golf ball in mid-flight (a talent that the real Lincoln
was quite proud of, but that most history books have omitted). As a gondolier
- Lincoln doesn't sing, although he does gracefully dip under a low bridge. Who
What's next? Teddy Roosevelt for Outback Steakhouses?
Grover Cleveland for Just for Men? Franklin Pierce for tattoo parlors? The problem
with this commerical is that the Lincoln impersonator is so convincing that while
you're looking for a $5 bill to compare faces, you miss the company's name. I
think it begins with an "L".
The same network that shows these commercials
also has frequent ads for companies like Boeing Aircraft, Union Pacific and Kerr-McGee
Oil Drilling. Just the type of companies that need name-recognition. I think it
might be time to switch to programing sponsored by food products.
can television ads teach us about real life? Not very much.