Bank of America’s billion-dollar spin

In the midst of our foreclosure crisis, Government Debt crisis, Congressional impotence on matters of finance and debt, the #Occupy street protests and Bank Fees Outrage…and even amidst recent headlines announced BofA was laying off 30,000 employees. Bank of America is trying to spin it to the positive and cast itself as a champion of the working class and small business!

Recent commercials are part of BofA’s TV, print and Web campaign running through the end of the year, with TV spots hitting a dozen markets across the country. And largely, the bank’s ads get across the feeling that it’s working on your behalf, feeling your pain, facilitating your joy. Here is BofA in Skokie, Ill., where the head of an athletic services company tells how the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (he uses the whole name) has allowed him to create more part-time jobs. Here it is in L.A., touting a loan it made (71 years ago!) that helped a family start up the popular hotdog eatery Pink; and here it is in New York’s Chinatown, helping a doctor bring radiation treatment to cancer patients who might otherwise not receive it.

Salon scathingly notes:

Corporations of all kinds have been running paeans to their own philanthropy and do-good projects for decades. This is nothing new.

But what makes the Bank of America campaign stand out is how dramatically the context around it has changed. These ads show nary a pixel of how our world has been altered by the capitalist collapse: They’re still peddling good but small deeds to a planet furious at the devastating role finance played in the housing and jobs crises, the unfairness of the big bank bailouts, and all the income inequality issues finally made evident by Occupy Wall Street.

Of course, Bank of America is hardly the only big bank desperate to play the good corporate gent. JP Morgan Chase (which Alternet and the Media Consortium recently ranked ahead of BofA as one of the five “’Worst’ Mega Banks in Political Corruption”) is running a TV ad promoting its commitment (along with a gaggle of other big corps) to hiring 100,000 veterans by 2020. What’s interesting about Bank of America’s campaign is its idea that the best way to take shelter from a big global crisis it helped create was to go hyper-local, focusing on small businesses and community projects, all far from the internationally connected boardrooms where the disaster was birthed. Says BusinessWeek: “The company is trying to improve its standing with local officials and small firms because ‘research shows us that’s a more important indicator of reputation,’ [global head of strategy and marketing Anne] Finucane told employees.”


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