Westpac Australia recently raised the interest rate on its variable mortgages by nearly twice the level of the Reserve Bank's increase, to the chagrin of many of its ever-poorer customers. So, it decided to release a patronising little animationentitled Cool Bananas to justify the decision.
The animation likens the global financial crisis to storms in Queensland that affected the price of bananas (somewhat surprisingly, it neglected to mention that the global financial crisis was caused by reckless, greedy financiers, rather than an act of God).
The movie was initially created as an internal tool for Westpac staff so they could better explain the financial situation to customers. But it was also sent to its customers via email. Bad move. It's not only been seen as a sad indictment on the knowledge of Westpac's banking staff, but also as a slap in the face for its customers, because its tone is so "child-like and condescending".
A Westpac spokesperson in Australia told The Age: ''We are trying to use a visible example of bananas and how their price was affected by the cyclone in Queensland [in March 2006] to explain a complex issue. Our intentions were honourable and we thought it a useful tool.''
But marketing experts were unimpressed. ''This long-winded parable of Westpac being like a banana seller in a storm on a tropical island somewhat beggars belief,'' said Stephen Pearson, chief executive of advertising agency Lowe Worldwide.
Not surprisingly, Westpac NZ media relations manager Craig Dowling says there's no intention to use the animation in the New Zealand market.
"Since the internal release of the video many requests were received, particularly from staff in branches, to be able to share it with customers," he says. "Because of the customer complaints about the video in the wake of the recent interest rate rise, saying that it is overly simplistic and patronising - certainly not its intent - it was removed from Westpac Group's internet site."
Perhaps Westpac should've used this more accurate power point dispay to explain the crisis to its staff and customers.