How I played the Grinch one Christmas – and loved it.

Back there in an earlier blog I made passing mention of the Commonwealth Bank and the fact that I was, in my early freelance days as Communicator One, called in to develop the launch of the Commonwealth Bank Bankcard. Up until then there had been only the one Bankcard, presumably run by Bankcard. (It may even have been called Cashcard. I don’t remember.) They had, for some time, run a very appealing and well remembered series of animated TV spots, and that fact has a lot to do with this story.

It was too obvious really. The smartest ploy for the launch of a new card was simply to take over the established campaign and turn it to the benefit of the new product. The Bank liked the idea but agreed that it was so obvious that their competitors’ Agencies would almost certainly be working on the same idea. There was an embargo on any Bankcard launch involving the new products until, I seem to recall, January 1. So there was the real possibility of more than one new campaign launching in that New Year with the familiar Bankcard animated characters. Unless!?

The rules said that we couldn’t advertise our new Bankcard until January 1. We couldn’t risk being one of several banks launching with the established and familiar campaign, but it remained the best of all ideas. I had to find a way of claiming the campaign for my Client and my Client alone, while there was a big risk we were not the only ones with the same concept in mind.  But how?

What we did was simple if just a tad sneaky. We made a commercial that was in every way the same as the previous Cashcard series. Same animation, same characters, same voice over. We signed it Commonwealth Bank but nowhere did it make mention of the new product or any product at all.  In fact, it sold nothing. We scheduled it for dead of night on all commercial channels just before Christmas. We thus established prior use of the concept without breaking any rules. The eventual real campaign involving the product, as might have been predicted, was a success. We later discovered that there had been another Agency developing the same concept. As a Freelance I enjoyed the thought of a big Agency, rumoured to be J Walter Thompson, spending their Christmas break hurriedly developing a new campaign for their Client.

I worked on several assignments for the Commonwealth Bank. (For the record, in spite of using the word here I chose never to think of having Clients. Rather I had assignments. Some lasted many years.)

I recall fighting hard, but losing the battle, to have the bank keep the elephant that had long been their logo, along with the line “We are the biggest”. Instead they went with the logo they have retained to this day, which nobody has ever been able to explain to me. It cost them heaps.

It amuses me sometimes to think of how many financial institutions I went on to work for in two States; banks, building societies, credit unions and even individual financiers.  You would think I might have learned enough not to be outliving my money in this my eighty-first year. Sigh#.

1 reply
  1. Josh Maxwell
    Josh Maxwell says:

    Memories of the white elephant have come to me …seems like a lifetime ago ….it is funny now that even the supermarkets can have their own credit card .


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