28 March 2009 116 Comments

A culture of deceptive advertisements: closing the gap between banking halls and cosmetic advertisements of banks

Author: yinkaolaito

Yinka Olaito is happy,excited and passionate Communications & Media specialist, Trainer and speaker. Yinka Olaito helps Profits and Non-profits with effective communication and positioning for premium service delivery and returns. Yinka Olaito also has special interest in Development Communication and has consulted for noted UN Agencies. Yinka Olaito is the CCO of Michael Sage Consulting(Communication/digital media), African Child Education Right Initiatives(NGO) and Content Director, Africa Development Talk( online Platform for discussion on Policy, Governance, development across Africa) and Africa Foundation for Young Media Professionals

Editor’s comment: The piece below is a guest post by one of our blog community-Kinglsley obom-Egbulem. This is based on his true experience. The opinion expressed here are his. Happy reading.

There was this new comedy  show on television a couple of months ago. It’s actually a television commercial-the Stanbic IBTC Bank television commercial announcing their take off after the merger. The TV commercial features the main male model washing his face in the bathroom, someone close by anticipates his need for a towel and reaches out to him with one. The same guy steps out of his house and he is closely followed by another guy( obviously personifying Stanbic IBTC Bank) .

 Soon he is driving and while he is driving, this guy (Stanbic IBTC) appears behind his car, seats on the booth while he drives on. Suddenly, every other person is driving with someone behind their car, as a matter of fact, sitting on the booth of their car. By the time the first guy retires to his bed at the end of the day, someone moves into his room, watching while he is asleep. He wakes up, a surprise look on his face and soon he heaves a sigh and then a smile as he discovers it was STANBIC IBTC Bank still watching over him.

 What an effort! An intriguing concept no doubt! For me, that was circus -pure and simple. Of course, that also depends on where you stand when it comes to consuming TV commercials that simply says what it obviously doesn’t mean or do. For God’s sake, how can a bank say they are with you (or will be with you) even when you are asleep? Perhaps the intention is to drive home the fact that they are always there for you. But is that the true picture you get whenever you need your bank or any bank for that matter?

Considering the gap between reality and the Eldorado painted in most bank advertisements, one can only wonder why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria(APCON) are not making sure such cosmetic claims in bank ads are expunged before being broadcast  to Nigerians. Why would a bank pay millions of naira to a company that will fly models and production crew to South Africa for instance, to shoot an amazing TV commercial just to tell people blatant lies about what they are not doing? The sad thing is they even get awards for this creative deception and nobody has ever bothered to interrogate such anomaly. For those wondering what the point of this article is, please simply watch TV commercials of most banks and see if you can connect with the brand promises or even the claims in the advertisement. For the purpose of comparison, when you hear or see a commercial from a fast food brand, the main element of the message is “come to our outlet, buy our meals and eat it, you will love it, it is hot and delicious”, and so on.

 To test the viability of this promise, you only need to visit the fast food outlet and a trial will convince you( that is, if  it doesn’t confuse you.) Until recently, when most brands decided to join the “brandwagon” of  those opting for motivational advertisements and all forms of campaigns aimed at addressing the human desire to achieve, succeed, dare and so on, advertisement  of banks have always addressed desirable  albeit abstract offers.

 What do you stand to benefit from a “Big Strong and Reliable” bank when it’s strength and size cannot move you from penury as its adverts seems to suggest? How reliable is the “reliability” mantra to an ordinary customer in need of credit to finance a project and with no collateral? We all know one bank that claims to be producing a population of “happy customers.” Many of these so called happy customers have complained about this banks “slow progress” in handling inter-bank transactions especially if your bank balance is not too “flabberwhelming”. Yet they continually deceive themselves and incense their customers with their slogan. Well, they do promos and give out cars, generators and other gifts. I guess that will make winning customers happy indeed.

 Recently there was a funny drama in my office. After several months of dormancy, our bank account recorded some activities that stirred our bankers into sending one of their guys after us. The guy who is supposed to be our account officer walked into our office with  grins and wanted to know how his bank can be of assistance. Our banker also has some of these deceptive commercials where they give the impression that they are there to turn your business ideas into reality. If this bank truly lives what its advertisements say, it should have come to ask us “how may we be of assistance” when there was lull  in our account. But like most banks in Nigeria ,they have no space for a struggling customer. All the claims of “we will help you succeed”, we are there with you, all the time”, only begins and ends with the commercial. It’s a different world when you really need them to stand by you.

 We confronted our account officer with this sad reality and unchecked deception. He said  the major obstacle banks in Nigeria have had to grapple with in translating their promises into reality is the dearth of trustworthy people. “My brother, whenever you extend facilities to any customer, you do so at your own risk, put your job and sometimes your life on the line. I’ve got my fingers burnt several times for daring to finance one LPO or the other”. This is a big challenge and a dire situation for budding entrepreneurs as it is not certain how many banks have crystal balls that will afford them a peep into the future so as to know who among those applying for loans will or will not default.

 Until when banks can actually sort out this mystery puzzle, one thing to do is vet their ads and ensure it doesn’t offer false hope. Such as one commercial currently running on TV which depicts several customers frowning into a banking hall only to come out with smiles seconds later.  That is far from reality. Everyone knows that you only come out of a bank with smiles when you are cashing a cheque, collecting money sent to you via money transfer or confirming payment of an expected money from a transaction with a client or customer. In all of these, the bank  plays its role of facilitating payment and transactions between the parties involved and it is not for free.

Perhaps ,their adverts should be specific about such roles and not try to create an impression of what they seldom do. In an era where advertising  is gradually losing its capacity to build brands and being perceived by many as pure entertainment, it would be akin to adding salt to injury if banks in their  advertisements  continue to make promises which they are struggling to fulfill. It really pays to keep it real, else they start sounding like Commissioners of Police who read riot acts to armed robbers whenever they report for duty in their new state while robbers are having a field day 50meters away from where they are speaking.   There is no wisdom in making splendid promises when you are not in control of variable  factors that will engender their fulfillment.  

Kingsley Obom-Egbulem is a social entrepreneur, a brand  and communication specialists.

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