As a general rule of thumb, the bigger and nastier the organisation, the better the PR machine. The biggest and nastiest (think Nazi Germany or Communist China) have PR machines that kick over into propaganda juggernauts.
Why hello ANZ Bank!
Along with the other big banks in Australia the ANZ has a PR machine to die for. Which, as I said above, tells you something about its behaviour. Money’s not the only thing that needs laundering in these days of ethical investment. So does reputation. And the reputation of banks has taken a dive in recent years, in case you’ve been living under a rock. (Though maybe you have been living under a rock cos the banks foreclosed on you.)
After all when there’s been a royal commission into your practises; when you’ve been consistently accused of turning a blind eye to money laundering and unscrupulous behaviour; when you’ve exhibited rapacious attitudes towards customers, then there’s nothing like a bit of glitter and rainbow to divert everyone’s attention.
“Oh look, over there, something cute!” Something like that.
You can imagine the head of PR at ANZ briefing the team:
“Okay people, Jerry Lewis once famously said of a movie that was being heavily edited to make it remotely watchable, ‘You can’t polish a turd’. Well let’s get out there and prove old Jerry wrong!”
Enter the ANZ’s campaign against hate speech, called Love Speech. What better way to prove that instead of being an ogre with fangs and talons, you’re actually just a cuddly , misunderstood teddy bear? Throw a lot of colour at people, along with a few love-is-love bombs, that should do the trick. That should pacify the baying crowd.
Whoever came up with idea is a PR genius, a marketing marvel, the head surgeon of spin-doctors. The ANZ has decided to counter hate speech – or at least what it considers to be hate speech-, with glossy, colourful Love Speech posters and articles.
And what constitutes love speech? Anything that champions this new Sexular Age of course. Sex and love are the same thing. Sex is used to sell everything. Everything is used to sell sex.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think that in this secular age, we should all be wise in giving our opinions about other people’s sexuality. Especially publicly. There’s nothing loving in shoving your opinion in others’ faces, especially if you’re just saying it out of anger, or frustration, or indeed self-righteousness. There’s nothing good about being a jerk at work.
So the Love Speech campaign has something of a point. And it’s certainly trying to be playful about it all. It’s painting a beautiful apocalypse indeed.
Wow! How glittery and rainbowy can one get? Nothing like the colour of money in there at all. Mission accomplished for the ANZ. It’s a brilliant effort indeed. And you have to say, some of those statements that get the rainbow treatment are crass and uncaring and downright rude (and wrong in some cases too).
So brilliant. Apart from a couple of major concerns.
First major concern: The LGBTQI community has come out against the campaign saying that it was not consulted at all. The very groups that the ANZ claims to represent were in fact not represented when the campaign was being dreamt up. Crazy! Fancy a big bank not listening to the voice of its customers before making a decision?
Second major concern: Speaking of customers, since almost 40 per cent of Australia voted in the plebiscite that actually, contrary to this ANZ statement…
… that marriage IS between a man and a woman, then the ANZ is on dangerous territory, especially in terms of customer relations.
Why risk losing valuable customers over this? I mean it’s not like the big banks have ever risked losing valuable customers over anything in the past, even actual hate in the form of allowing its services to be used by those involved in international child exploitation (take a bow Westpac).
The ANZ is playing a dangerous game of labelling anyone who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman as hateful. And it’s lowering the level of public discourse around something far more important than the obscene credit card interest rates it charges.
This huge corporation, that sits outside government and sits outside the democratic process, wields huge cultural power. And all it can think of doing is throwing anyone and everyone under the bus in order to further its cause. Because, let’s face it, it is about furthering the bank’s cause. PR is about getting on the bandwagon after its safe to do so.
But why we would we think otherwise of a big bank?
Hey ANZ, take a lesson: Start matching your actions to your speech. Stop giving us spin around just about anything. Stop putting smiley faces of famous people up on your advertising bill-boards. Start acting justly in your business practices. You post record profits and crow about it. Stop shoving your understanding of love speech in our faces, and take this example of love action in light of James 5 in the New Testament:
Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have hoarded treasure in the last days. Look, the wages you withheld from the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter.
I guess when that’s your schtick you’re going to need a whole lotta love action to make up for it. Face it ANZ, with a reputation like yours, Love Speech just won’t cut it.