Weird ad: can’t we all just get along?
Thursday March 12th 2015, 3:11 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,financial services

So the odd ad this week comes from Amalgamated Bank. Never heard of ‘em.

The good people at Amalgamated have clearly heard of branding agencies, though, as their website is downright winsome for a bank and their mission (yes) is to be “the preeminent bank of progressive people, organizations, businesses and labor.” Sooo hard to accomplish this when your 1-year CD rate is 0.40%, etc., but that’s a whole different post. Stephanie-Fierman-Amalgamated

So anyway, back to the ad. “Does your bank care more about limo riders than subway riders?” In an effort to be clever and “of the people,” Amalgamated has taken an off-base swipe at those who sometimes ride in the back of cars and insulted everyone reading its transit ad.  A double! And given the too clever by half approach to the copy, there is zero chance that anyone would pause to ask themselves the somewhat deep question Amalgamated is asking; said subway rider would be too busy trying to figure out WTF the ad is trying to say.

New York is also the wrong city for this ad. Too much of a melting pot.  “Limo” doesn’t have the same universal connotation it might have elsewhere, or at least it no longer does.  The bank’s site refers to helping the same kind of people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of – hello – 1911. Today, the delineation between (think wealthy) limo riders and (think poor) subway riders isn’t all that clear. Plenty of New Yorkers who use limos for work use the subway on their own time, or when they’re paying. Then there’s the Ubers and Lyfts (limo? car? you decide)… The message just falls flat.

Oh, and one last thing? Why Amalgamated? Where’s the benefit? It’s a cheap shot to promote yourself in a serious category by dissing someone else (and not even someone specific – just “your bank”).

This is a fail, and maybe that’s a shame.  I looked at a bunch of the videos on the bank’s site, and they appear to care about things that are worth caring about. Cool. But as an advertiser? Be sure your voice, the message and the place all work together successfully.  If they don’t, you need to rethink what you’re doing.


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