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Ed Driscoll

The 25 Percent Solution

December 26th, 2010 - 2:59 pm

At the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin spots “A bank that proudly does business in Iran:”

The international bank HSBC says it is pulling an ad that juxtaposes a plug for the bank’s ability to find “potential in unexpected places” with a factoid about Iran: “Only 4% of American films are made by women. In Iran it’s 25%.”

A reader e-mailed me about the ad last week. The implication that Iranian women — who are tortured, beaten, murdered and imprisoned for exercising rights of free speech — are better situated than their American counterparts was simply preposterous.

When I contact HSBC on Thursday, spokesman Robert Sherman denied that the ad suggested the bank was exploring investment opportunities in Iran. “The ad makes no such statement,” he claimed via e-mail. Why bring up Iran then?

Since it may very well disappear soon from HSBC’s Website, you can see the complete text of the ad here, and a portion  at the top of the page, where a Commentary reader spotted it at the airport in Athens, Greece.

Back when I worked in one 20 years ago, banking used to be thought of a rather staid field. As Michael Lewis put it back then in Liar’s Poker, most bank executives were part of the 3-6-3 club: Pay three percent interest to their customers for holding their money, with which they could make loans at six percent, head to the golf club at 3:00 PM. Repeat ad nauseam.

Perhaps to add a little excitement to their lives, the advertising of banks and financial firms have become increasingly politicized. But maybe those of us who don’t embrace the ever-increasingly holistic politics of the left are more aware of it than those on the inside of the boardroom. So far this year, we’ve seen Wachovia Bank (now part of Wells Fargo) embrace the reprimitivism of Earth Hour, proudly announcing on their ATM machines and on Wells Fargo Websites:

Earth Hour

Even as “progressives” long for the cargo cult of the New Deal and public works projects such as Hoover Dam, American Express ran this ad in primetime earlier this year, celebrating a modern-day “dam buster” — a man who’s proudly working to destroy a hydroelectric dam in California:

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YouTube Direkt

Last year James Lileks spotted this Orwellian environmentally-themed ad from MasterCard:

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YouTube Direkt

Regarding HSBC, Jennifer notes this:

A day after I contacted HSBC, I received a follow-up e-mail from Sherman that read: “The ad was meant to encourage debate and discussion, and we certainly did not intend to cause offense. Subsequent to hearing some recent concerns, we are removing the ad from our global campaign.”

So a variation on the standard “botched joke” mulligan of the left, in other words.

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