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In honor of the fact that Citigroup has announced it will move most of its global creative branding business from Fallon to Publicis, I found myself thinking back to Fallon's memorable "Live Richly" campaign. Anyone who was living in New York circa 2003 will remember seeing the barrage of billboards asserting their pseudo-philosophies in financial-tickeresque typeface, calmly and humbly floating on a plain white background:
"Contrary to popular belief, you are not what you drive."
"You are not gold, silver, or platinum. You are you."
"Penny candy is a nickel. Water costs a dollar. Laughter is still a bargain."
Just a small sampling of the myriad reminders from your friendly neighborhood banking behemoth about what's really important in life! And always with the perfect capper at the end, under the cute little red arc: "Live richly." It's not about being rich, but having a rich experience of life, right? Good thing "rich" and "richly" are only two letters apart.
I have to give the ads credit for finding so many different ways to neatly skewer the dual mindset of the average New Yorker, both the acquisitive, status-symbol-crazed king Midas and the worried, stressed-out penny-pincher in all of us. Seeing the billboards on my way to work, I felt simultaneously reprimanded and reassured…and then annoyed. I mean, thank you Citibank, I'm glad YOU don't think I should be too focused on my fiscal bottom line, but after I've taken .3 seconds to give the requisite props for irony and prolific copywriting, my mind loops back to the fact that the ads intend, of course, to provoke exactly the kind of financial worry they decry.
These are the same preemptive caveats given to you by that undermining friend who tells you apropos of nothing, to just relax and not worry about [insert shortcoming/problem/fatal flaw here.] So while the ads were a resounding success in catching my eye and provoking thought, I'm not sure I would ultimately be drawn to a bank taking up my advertising attention-span spouting warm fuzzy psychobabble about hugs and laughter.
Bottom line is, if my banking institution wants to humanize itself somehow, I'd rather their ads convince me that they give a crap about my fiscal wellbeing, rather than telling me not to stress about it. With Publicis, Citibank will soon launch a new campaign featuring, as per AdAge.com, the slogan "Let's get it done." Perhaps this branding campaign will be about convincing us of Citibank's efficiency rather than convincing us to stop and smell the roses?