CONTROVERSIAL: An image from the FNB advertising campaign
CONTROVERSIAL: An image from the FNB advertising campaign

I FEEL compelled to comment on the FNB furore that has erupted and the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) overreaction, which has become passé in the present-day rainbow nation.

When it comes to matters of national discontent, I believe it is imperative that we first look at the integrity of the messenger before we decide where to place our support.

I have done a scan of all the online news channels and without exception all of the reaction is in support of the bank. Somehow, people have mistakenly confused the student in the ad as the messenger when really she is not.

The messenger is a bank, which, albeit cleverly, has manipulated a mass sentiment of shame and hopelessness to sell products that have proven not to serve the customers they so passionately spend millions of rand promising they do care about.

South Africans have long been renowned internationally for having the gift of the gab and marketing. In this case I believe strongly that we have bought into our own PR and love of a good story or speech at the cost of maintaining a critical and realistic view on the matter.

The content and campaign are without a doubt clever, on point, daring, sincere and creative, but they are little more than the product of an ambitious and experienced marketing director swept up by her trigger-happy ad agency. I can guarantee that the Arab Spring was not ignited or propelled forward by a bank or any other corporate citizen.

As a bank, FNB is the last corporate citizen who should be piggy-backing on political discontent to push its products. Its well-thought-through, multi-platform advertising campaign and creative genius show very little consideration for the children and their families featured in those ads, who will be caught and hurt in the political crossfire.

And it gives no indication of where it sits in terms of service delivery to customers.

The means should not be overly applauded because the end is to get more customers to sign up for products that will inevitably fail to deliver, too.

The ANC as usual went into its schizo/maltese/pit bull mode, but FNB should not be congratulated.

The ruling party’s attempts at intimidation do not change the fact that this is simply a multimillion-rand ad campaign with a cleverly crafted message that will surely be entered for the Loerie or Cannes Lions awards.

The ANC needs antipsychotic medication and hormone replacement therapy and FNB needs to stay in its lane and focus on serving its customers.

Claudia Mpeta

Via e-mail