Not your usual banking story

Ads for Canadian banks focus on things they figure their customers care about – credit cards, investments, loans, banking services, consumer goods. The stories they tell are bland, cautious, predictable. They want us to see them as responsible and fiscally conservative.

Those are good qualities for banks. Given the economic chaos of the last few years, we want to believe our money is safe. So a marketing story that makes us feel safe is probably a good business decision. Somehow I can’t imagine a Canadian bank making a social justice statement with its advertising.

That’s what Argentina’s Banco Provincia does with this ad, and it’s a fascinating cultural reflection. We see a vehicle stop. An older man gets out and walks up to an attractive hairdresser, who is standing outside her shop. He apologizes for mistreating her and tells her he asked the bank for a car loan because that same bank granted her—a transgendered woman—a loan to start her hairdressing business.

Argentina is ahead of tolerant Canada in creating an atmosphere of acceptance for transgendered people. It’s encouraging to know that in 2009 Marcela Romero, an activist who fought successfully for the right to have a sex change, was chosen Argentina’s Woman of the Year.

I don’t think we’ll see an ad like this one on Canadian television this year, but the time is coming nearer when we will.

[Keep reading below the video to see one of the reasons I think such ads in Canada are a long way off.]

A postscript to this story, from a Canadian perspective:

No one will be surprised to note that Royal Bank’s ads don’t mention the compensation it gives its CEO. In 2010 Gordon Nixon received $11 million in direct compensation and a pension top-up of $810,000. Another four RBC officers divided up a pie worth $28.08 million.

That same year Toronto Dominion CEO Ed Clark scooped $11.3 million. Scotia Bank’s Richard Waugh came in third, at $10.7 million. Bank of Montreal’s Bill Downe earned $9.5 million. Scotia Bank’s CEO, Gerry McCaughey made a mere $9.34 million.

The heads of Canada’s Big Five banks earned a total of $51.84 million. Statistics Canada figures always lag behind the current year so the closest I can report is that in 2008 the average income after tax of all families of two or more was $74,600. Singles averaged $31,000.

To put that in context, let’s assume those CEO’s didn’t hire smart accountants, lawyers and financial advisors to shelter most of their income. Instead, let’s assume they paid the full 29% owed by anyone making over $128,800. Ludicrous, I know, but it’s a starting point.

Discounting additional income from those CEO’s wives and any investment income they might have, they had an average after-tax pay of $8.4 million. Divide that by the average family income, and each of them made about 113 times as much as the average Canadian family and more than 270 times the average single.

They can afford to buy the things their marketing tells us are important – houses, cars, vacations. Do they really deserve to make that much more than ordinary folk?

Time for a new story.

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Cheryl Thomas - April 14, 2011

I think it will be a long time before Canada will make an advert like this as well – ‘we still have a long way to go’ before many things are ‘tolerated’ in this ‘free’ country of Canada….. makes one realize that we are not so ‘free’ after all

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storyroute admin - April 14, 2011

Definitely still a lot of work to do to offer simple social justice to all. Our growing gap between rich and poor is a reversal of the kind of egalitarianism Canadians value.

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