AN AD CAMPAIGN SO EARNEST AND BORING

Bank of America Work Lacks a Pulse

By Published on .

Client: Bank of America
Title: "ATM Locator"
Agency: Deutsch, New York
Star Rating: 2.0

How to create a campaign: Take the strategy, a rainbow of banker diversity and 55 gallons of syrup. Shovel them into the advertising machine.

The ATM spot of the campaign could be straight out of a Saturday Night Live parody.

Hit "blend." Extrude and slice.

Voila! The Bank of America branding effort. And an adequate effort it is.

Extremely adequate
Wait. That doesn't quite convey the merits of this work, produced by Deutsch, New York, under the holding-company banner of the Interpublic Group. This campaign isn't merely adequate. It is extremely adequate.

Inclusive. Inoffensive. On message. There's no violence or nudity. Each spot times out to a perfect 60 seconds. Carrot Top isn't in one of them. On the contrary, we see lots of very likeable folks of many famous ethnicities talking about the bank's "Highest Standards" -- which you can't really argue with, as they don't specify who has lower standards. If, say, Citibank has a beef, BoA can always say, "No, we meant high compared to Scott Peterson's."

The individual spots focus on individual employees who congratulate themselves for Bank of America's commitment to small business, communities, fabulously rich people, Mexican laborers, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. You can choose to believe them or not. Commitment -- unlike the free checking and ATM ubiquity highlighted in the engaging and persuasive product campaign that preceded this -- is not really provable.

Inadvertently hilarious
One of the eight spots, however, is inadvertently hilarious. In an attempt to use a single aspect of its conscientiousness as evidence of a higher level of standards, the spot focuses on a BoA architect who decides where to place the bank's ATMs. We see Jose Delgado standing on a street corner -- hour after hour, in sunshine and rain -- observing traffic and doing seat-of-the-pants demographic research.

"You have to immerse yourself into the street," he says. "Who's going to use the machine and how and when and where. Why are they going? Where are they going? Going to get a haircut. Going to soccer practice. We understand the impact

of a left turn, of a right turn, of traffic signals, of sun glare. I look at the fancy cars and the not-so-fancy cars, and the type of suits and shoes they wear."

Fondles the limestone
He fondles the limestone. He says he's proud to be a banker.

Eventually, no doubt, he'll carefully situate the ATM right at the corner of the building -- i.e., where every bank puts its outdoor ATM. All the shots of this poor schmo standing in the rain and taking little notes could be straight out of a Saturday Night Live parody; in fact, the spot is very reminiscent of the classic "We make change" spoof of the late '80s.

Even if the public rolls its eyes at the overwrought earnestness of these ads, maybe the tens of thousands of BoA employees will be buoyed by them. Hitherto they may have considered themselves loan salesmen and tellers and ATM-location-spotters. Now they identify themselves as "bankers."

Which would make the folks at Deutsch, suddenly operating in the name of the Interpublic Group, what -- holders?

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