22 Feb 2010

The Donkey and BNP Paribas

Watching CNBC I could hardly believe my eyes when I spotted a middle-aged French lady rattling on about her life, that she dreamed of being rich when she was young. This was quickly followed by a rustic-looking chap from the West Bank who told us how happy he was to feed his donkey. The suspense built and I thirsted for the commercial break on CNBC to end so that I could find out which company was willing to shell out money for such incoherent testimonials. I expected it to be some charity, maybe linked to the United Nations. But the surprise winner was -- BNP Paribas! Having just closed today's Financial Times where a back page was adorned by the picture of Roger Federer it made it all-too-obvious that advertising has taken on a life of its own in the banking industry. Is it really all about image? Is it impossible to differentiate yourself by promoting a better product and outline the benefits it may bring to the customer? Does it really matter to a customer of Credit Suisse how many matches Roger Federer may have won? (650 in case you wonder). At a time when banking worldwide is an industry under siege - and we may not yet have seen the worst of the political onslaught - one would hope that managements put their advertising departments on a tighter leash.

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