It’s very much in keeping with modern times that mortgages are advertised by a stray animal that is famous for living in a bin. If you think about it that’s where lots of people mis-sold unaffordable mortgages pre-crash probably ended up. I’m doubtful this Halifax Top Cat advert is intentionally riffing on that idea…
Halifax has created a bit of a niche for itself over the last 15 years by deliberately undermining the idea of banks as being stuffy and officious. Going right the way back to Howard the dancing manager – via adverts that suggested all the Halifax staff were running radio stations – this is a brand that has been desperately signalling “I’m mad, me” like the office twat laughing at a Crazy Frog ringtone.
But is this Halifax Top Cat Advert really what we want from our banks? Isn’t it quite a good idea if you’re not perceived as a bunch of wankers in such a financially insecure world? Wouldn’t it be better to suggest that Halifax are quite careful about to whom they lend significant amounts of cash?
Who knows. These days we seem happy to spunk money left, right and centre and listen to politicians tell us that we can have whatever we want as long as we let businesses dictate the way we live.
I have a bank account with Halifax, because they offered the largest cashback for transferring a bank account. And for no other reason. And the first time I tried to use it – to pay in two £50 notes – I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Here’s how it went:
AdTurds: Hello, can I pay these £50 in to my account please?
Halifax: No, we can’t do that.
AdTurds: Why not? Aren’t they legal tender?
Halifax: Yes, but we’re not allowed to bank them.
AdTurds: What am I supposed to do with them then?
Halifax: You have to take them to the Bank of England.
AdTurds: The Bank of England… in London?
AdTurds: The Bank of England on Threadneedle Street in London? I have to physically take them there to bank them?
AdTurds: No. There’s no way that’s true. You must be mistaken.
Halifax: No. You have to take them to the Bank of England.
Halifax: Let me check. There may be a branch in Warrington (checks computer). No, London’s the only place you can take them.
AdTurds: Can I speak to someone else? I mean no offence, but you’re clearly wrong. I mean, the internet. Telephones. No way do you physically have to transport bank notes to the capital city to be able to bank them.
Halifax: I’m sorry but that’s how it is. I can write down the address for you if you want…
And at that point, realising I’d walked into a scary John Carpenter film, I slowly backed away from the counter, wondering if the shutters were going to come down and the Halifax staff would immediately attack me with knives and start feasting on my brains. I went to the bank I’ve always banked with, NatWest, and asked if I could pay in my fifty quids. Here’s what happened:
AdTurds: Can I pay in these £50 notes please?
Not a blink, not an upwards glance, not a beat missed. No ‘you have to go to a place 250 miles away at a cost far in excess of the value of these notes’. A simple yes.
Perhaps we deserve the services we get. Perhaps if we choose to bank with someone on the basis that they give me a tenner more than someone else I deserve the kind of idiotic advice I got over that fifty quid.
This Halifax Top Cat Advert tells us everything we need to know about our glib, brainless and wilfully idiotic relationship with money. An easy-come-easy-go, on-tick, never-never lifestyle that is our reward for being total dicks with money for the last 30 years.
It’s a Tory government advert; a Noughties and Tweenies Britain advert; a thoroughly stupid advert that, for some reason, thinks a bad Phil Silvers impression that was originally a parody of an army-set 50s American sitcom is a good framing device for selling mortgages.
Then again, this is a bank that has repeatedly had its knuckles rapped for a variety of issues. Perhaps we really don’t care about how badly our banks behave, as long as they package it all up in a stupid advert.
Maybe a mangy, conniving cat that lives in a bin and his dimwitted apprentice really are the best mascots for our attitudes to money, to banking, for Halifax. A bank apparently run by – and for – stupid people.