Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Crave solid food, not milk

Have Bankwest, an Australian bank, transgressed an important principle of effective advertising? When advertising it is critical that the attention of members of the target audience is gained. 

A media release from the bank introduces the new face of its marketing campaign, John McEnroe, a former tennis champion:

“Tennis legend John McEnroe has entertained fans the world over with his on-court talent, antics and heated temper - memories which will be revived as he stars in a new national marketing campaign for Bankwest.”

The bank is using McEnroe – known for his argumentative personality – as a way of presenting their product as one that is trouble free to the consumer:

“John McEnroe is notorious for his tantrums and argumentative personality which emerged when he was the world’s number one tennis player," Bankwest Customer Communications and Brand General Manager, Paul Vivian said.

“If we can make banking simpler for John McEnroe, we should be able to do so for any customer."

So why do I question Bankwest’s advertising as a matter of principle of effective advertising? Simply, that McEnroe retired from competitive tennis in 1992 – a time before many of Bankwest’s potential teenage customers and customers in their twenties were born!  Even a thirty year old, say a person born 1985, would struggle to meaningfully associate McEnroe.  To choose a face for marketing that is unknown, or irrelevant, to approximately a third of your market seems odd. 

As odd as Bankwest’s appeal to the market seems, I've expereinced worse at a local institution.  An Anglican church, part of the conservative Sydney Diocese, which I happened upon one recent Sunday, had used Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Message’ for one of its Holy Scripture readings. The church has adopted a mystic air by proposing that congregants close their eyes as ‘The Message’ is read.  It was suggested that closed eyes ensured absorption of the poetry of the reading.

Readings from ‘The Message’?, a mystic air?, in a Sydney Anglican church?, startlingly odd for a number of reasons:

i)              Peterson finds it peculiar that any church would use his book for Scripture readings:

“When I'm in a congregation where somebody uses [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, "Hear the Word of God from The Message." But it surprises me how many do.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Message_(Bible) accessed 1 September 2015.

ii)             Sydney Anglicans have been quite cautious as to use of mysticism or entertainment.  Mysticism or entertainment are used by some Pentecostal Megachurches within the Sydney basin.  You’d think that any church in the Sydney Anglican Diocese would think thrice before introducing anything that had a hint of mysticism or entertainment.  Even where the local clergy had thought thrice you’d hope there be the necessity of referral to the Archbishop.

iii)            I’ve had to pinch myself to think that ‘The Message’ is being read in a mainstream Protestant church in the enlightened year of 2015.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:2 identifies how we need be discerning to ensure that we feast spiritually on solid food.  ‘The Message’ sits in a category of paraphrase or devotional literature (that is, milk).  To one raised on credible versions of the Bible, ‘The Message’ is not solid food. To one who enjoys feasting on solid food, one could, in respect 'The Message' coin the phrase “Only a fool trips on what is behind him”.

iv)            The Reformation paved the way for the masses to read their Bible and challenge their clergy. Having congregants shut their eyes while a reading unknown to them is recited is a step back to the 16th Century.  

v)             I did not found the text read from 'The Message' to offer any advantage over the well translated version available to me in the church’s pew Bible.  Reading ‘The Message’ in an enlightened Sydney Anglican church is at best a retrograde step and at worse a gross detriment.

Bankwest and churches will not always match their pitch with their audience.  Getting the communication and delivery right is not always easy.  Yet, Bankwest will do little by way of harm in using a tennis legend as a face of advertising. 

Guard yourself parishioner! Ensure you have solid spiritual food. Put milk behind you.


Note for Biblical nerds: ‘The Message’ is a highly idiomatic translation that falls outside of the normal formal/dynamic translation spectrum to instead take the form of paraphrase.

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