The Co-Op Tattoo Advert

cop-op tattoo advert


I don’t really know what else there is to say about this advert, the TV equivalent of a man taking your head between his hands, tears streaming down his face, and promising he’ll never hurt you again. It’s about as convincing and as unsettling.

Some context. The Co-Op Bank doesn’t invest in dodgy companies; it was ethical before ethical was a thing. My grandparents got their food at the Co-Op, banked there, had their funerals with the Co-Op. In the north it was a way of paying into a union – banking and shopping with something you could trust. It evolved out of worker’s unions and to this day retains an element of that spirit.

cop-op tattoo advert skull

Recently, however, the Co-Op has had a problem. Struggling in the modern era when banks are essentially government-sanctioned slum landlords, the Co-Op – with its notions of fairness and equality – is hopelessly out of step with a prevailing ethos of killing the last goose that lays golden eggs, mechanically separating the meat, turning it into kebabs and feeding it to diabetic children.

Further to this, in relation to now-dislodged Chairman Paul Flowers, it turned out the bank had been run by a combination of Bad Lieutenant (the Harvey Keitel version) and Father Jack Hackett and was in utter disarray. So this advert is a great opportunity to restate the brand proposition, win back some hearts and minds and regain the initiative.

Exactly why, then, you’d employ a third-rate Bond villain to deliver a monologue so earnest it makes Richard Burton look like Dappy, in an indeterminate accent while receiving a tattoo reading Ethics and Values… Well, I don’t know why you’d do any of those things. If you\re suggesting that people at the Co-Op have the words ‘Ethics and Values’ permanently inscribed on their skin, well… that’s clearly insane. If that’s not what your implication is, why imply it?

cop-op tattoo advert skull ethics and values

The delivery is so intense it feels like it should pop up in a Mitchell and Webb sketch show; the mixed visual metaphors on show are so tortured and the message so utterly bizarre.

Flowers had to leave when it was discovered that he had bought a load of Crystal Meth, amongst various other dubious behaviour. I can only assume that he dreamed this up while high as a kite, screaming at the moon, wearing only his underpants and a porkpie hat.

It’s rare that an advert has such power, but it genuinely makes me fear for the future of the bank (now controlled by hedge funds anyway following a bailout) and the group as a whole. If someone can OK this, they’re capable of anything. If you misunderstand your own brand so fundamentally can there be any hope?

This campaign cost five million quid and I honestly believe that I could have done a better job. If we didn’t know the Co-Op was in trouble before this ad, we certainly do now.