Fake koalas anyone?

Different isn’t always a good thing. The new Commonwealth Bank ad has me asking ‘what were they thinking?’

Is it just me, or do the most recent Commonwealth Bank ads go beyond strange and right on into the “what were they thinking” category? I know it’s supposed to be a satirical take on something, but I just don’t get it (and I have a pretty good sense of humour). So what are they trying to tell us about themselves?




I have seriously tried to see past the ridiculous set up for the meaning, with no success. Near as I can figure out, it is just an elaborate set up to launch the new “tagline” – Determined to be Different. Well I guess they accomplished the different part – and in this case that’s not a good thing!


However bad the ad is, it is a useful illustration of a favourite point of mine – don’t try and be something you are not. It never works, and you usually look silly trying (fake Koalas driving dune buggies anyone?). What is true of your culture, your values, your brand, your leadership and your actions should be true even in your marketing. Authenticity matters!


I don’t pretend to know what point about the Commonwealth Bank the ad is making, and I do understand that in these times of tough competition it gets harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. But surely being who you are and getting noticed aren’t mutually exclusive concepts, even in advertising.


Incoherent, insider-joke, silly, strange, indulgent – just a few of the words that come to mind when I see the ad, and I am quite sure not words that the Commonwealth Bank (or any bank for that matter) wants to be associated with.


The best ads tell a story, they make it compelling and memorable, they tell me something about who they are in a way that doesn’t just give me information, it connects with my emotions and stays with me for days and sometimes years afterwards.


So my message to the leadership and marketing teams at Commonwealth Bank is this. Stop trying so hard to be “entertaining” and “clever” – it feels awkward and forced and just makes me wonder what you’re trying to hide. If you are really “determined to be different” then raise the stakes and create an ad that tells me a real story about who you are and what you care about – I dare you! (oh and while you are at it how about supporting your country and using an Australian advertising agency)…


My question for this week – what do your ads (whatever media they are in) say about you?


See you next week.



Michel Hogan is an independent consultant and practising brand heretic, who firmly believes that success for organisations starts on the inside with alignment between beliefs and actions, a passion she explores daily in her work here with Brandology and in the United States with the Brand Alignment Group .

For more Cultural Leadership blogs, click here.



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