Friday, 5 August 2016

Department of Manifest Absurdity: Big US Banks Launch Ad Campaign to Demonstrate Their Worth to Society

If You Can't See the Obvious Link to Big Banks, Take as Many Looks as You Need Until You Can.

The New York Times reports (and when the NYT reports AA pays more than his useful careful attention even when the  reporting doesn’t cover metals) that big US banks are engaged in a major advertising campaign to demonstrate their societal worth and why they should be more loved

Not one to usually share the spotlight AA will uncharacteristically let the NYT speak for itself.  The Grey Lady’s comments are in quotation marks.  AA’s thoughts are indented and in italics.

“At both the Democratic and Republican conventions, the nation’s biggest banks were again cast as the bad guys, criticized as being too big and too risky.”

AA:  Note the charge “too big” and” too risky”.   How will the banks prove that they’re not reckless and a danger to national economies?   Glad you asked.

“This week, as the Olympic Games begin in Brazil, one of the big banks, Citigroup, is offering a rebuttal with a series of prime-time television and digital ads featuring images of sweaty athletes, the Space Shuttle and an early A.T.M.

[AA: Heartwarming video here, but be warned if you're a sensitive sort, you might break down crying.]

“Our business is helping Americans make progress,” the ad’s narrator says, as a runner with a prosthetic leg sprints down a track.

AA:  Impeccable logic. .Show hard working folks at their tasks which no doubt have something to do with banking.  What precisely isn’t clear.  Used an ATM? Have a credit card?  In any case a powerful rebuttal against "recklessness" and "riskiness". And one which shows big banks’ virtue.  Smart move as I believe there were some no doubt unfounded allegations about big banks’ ethics and morality.

AA understands from thoroughly unreliable sources that JPMorgan is preparing its own commercials.  Jamie Dimon, known for his no nonsense suffer no fools approach, is reportedly going to appear in a series of ads featuring animals.  Among the ads planned, one features Jamie with whales off the coast of London or Washington state (location yet to be finalized).   Another with cuddly puppies, ice cream, and adorable children.   Tag line:  “Banking making a kinder gentler future for all of us”.

As a banker, AA knows the value of getting a fee for advice, but in a spirit of reckless (I am a banker after all) generosity (here the analogy breaks down), some ways this “geometric logic” could be applied to other cases. 

Goldman is reportedly assisting the US authorities with inquiries into its conduct and fees (a cool half a billion) for the US$6.5 billion in notes (bonds to the layman) it arranged for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013.   Two of the note issues were to fund-–well at least partially—1MDB’s acquisition of power generation assets.  AA sees a compelling ad featuring Malaysian farmers toiling alongside their water buffaloes.  Sweaty and tired after a hard day’s work, they settle back to listen to one of the fireside chats given by Malaysia’s prime minister.  One old chap speaks up.  “I remember when we didn’t have power”.  Tears in his eyes, he turns to the camera, “Thank you, Lloyd”.

Several Malaysian businessmen—LOW, TAN, AZIZ--have been charged with misappropriating 1MDB funds (to use the US Department of Justice’s happy turn of phrase).  Some of the funds are alleged to have been used to acquire works of art as well as fund a Hollywood blockbuster.  Key the camera.  The Parthenon, the Coliseum (Rome), Hagia Sophia, the Pyramids.  Voice over by an actor with an appropriately sonorous voice (Morgan Freeman?)  “Culture is what defines a civilization.”  Pictures of The Rjiks Museum, Museuminsel, The Louvre, The Tate, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  “Reflected in great art that is still accessible to us today.”   Pictures of the three gentlemen named earlier.  “Art patrons before they are businessmen.  Supporting culture in all its forms”.

And then there is the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Perhaps a harder case with some audiences.  I see a testimonial by Candy Charms who recently visited for some cosmetic surgery.  Nose, if you're interested. According to the Mirror, she said.  "Loved Tehran. The people are so kind and generous.  "Really overwhelmed by the whole trip. The people are so amazing.  Tag Line: “Amazing Iran.  Friendly people.  The most advanced medical care at a reasonable cost”.    Let’s go local with the link on this story from Gulf News as the Mirror article is accompanied by some unsuitable pictures.

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