Aren’t banks great? They give you money and all sorts – and all they ask is that they are able to make money from the cash that we bank with them. It’s almost utterly altruistic on their part. God bless banks – and bank adverts.
As this advert, released in time to celebrate Lloyds’ 250th anniversary, tells us, they’re there through good times and bad – you know, the times when they mis-sell PPI, launder money and attract more complaints to the financial ombudsman man than any other bank. Good old Lloyds!
And the good old Lloyds bank horse – representing how the brand is, er, horselike. And, just like horses, they’ve been helping the British people over the last 250 years, whether they’re moving stuff, jumping over stuff or stepping on landmines on a French battlefield. Just like banks, when you think about it.
In any case, the black horse is one of the more recognisable financial brands – much more than Barclays’ eagle or Halifax’s big H. So it kinda makes sense that they’re bringing it back in this advert. Nothing like a spot of recognition of a well-known avatar, after all.
Except that’s bollocks really. On a personal level I have never had any meaningful interaction with a black horse, nor Lloyds. Nor any bank. They’re a necessary – if unloved – facet of the modern world, like insurance, comparison websites and the booze that helps to numb the pain of it all.
I view the prospect of going to bank for absolutely any reason to be an exercise in Computer-Says-No frustration, long queues and being vaguely patronised. Frankly, that’s how everyone feels when they go into a bank – and people who work in banks tend to belong to one of the few remaining professions that seem to require a combination of curtness, uselessness and rank condescension.
I recently went to a bank to pay in two old 50 quid notes to be told – I kid you not – that I’d have to take them to the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, in person. This turned out to be as incorrect as it was absurd, but it’s par for the course in terms of how unhelpful banks tend to be.
What’s more, that black horse really doesn’t engender much good will. Banks are about as toxic as politicians these days in the public’s affections – ranked somewhere between ketamine psychosis and James Corden – so the appearance of the Lloyds horse is some magnitudes behind the likes of Tony The Tiger and the Smash robots as far as eliciting positive emotions go.
The use of the black horse here is rather like scheduling a Heroes of Comedy season on UK Gold, featuring interviews with the late Les Dawson, Rik Mayall and Peter Cook – but interspersed with monologues from George Osborne announcing benefit cuts to disabled people. It either misunderstands how virtually everyone views banks and bankers – or it simply doesn’t care. It’s like ISIS selling the sort of merchandise you see in a National Trust shop – erasers, jams and tea-towels – Tesco sending you its mixtape or The Conservative Party making its own pornographic DVDs.
Banks have utterly lost the public’s trust, through their own horrible behaviour. They have shafted us, cheated us, lied to us again and again – and the only conclusion we can come to, since they have done it again and again, is that they’re utterly unrepentant. And they offer glossy adverts in return. It’s like someone stealing your life savings, writing off your car and burning down your house, then commiserating with an offer to buy you a pint with your own cash.
No doubt someone somewhere has been pointing to a Powerpoint display with the phrase ‘recapturing trust’ and ‘restating values’ next to a picture of a black horse, while Lloyds boffins nod and chew their expensive pens. And everyone involved in it – bosses, marketers, foot soldiers, consumers and regulators – know this dishonest advertising to be a massive lie on every level. It’s a sticking plaster over a wound so ragged, festering and grievous – bailouts, bonuses, scandal, rigging; the things that have defined banks over the last decade – that it amounts to a colossal affront to everyone’s intelligence. An appalling insult to terrible injury. The threat is barely implicit: let us do what we want, bail us out, leave us alone. If we go down we’re taking you with us.
If you want a metaphor involving a horse to demonstrate the balance of power between the banks and us, don’t think of a billowing, rippling steed running through Kent. Imagine waking up to a severed equine head under your duvet.