Bargains in the sales
Swimming Naked Awards

Dreary Nationalism or Cool Creativity?

Those are the two possible takes on the KiwiBank adverts. You can refresh your memory over at Youtube, type in Kiwibank in the search function and you'll get them all. I enjoyed watching one at the cinema last week and didn't feel any particular concern about it. Making fun of one's competitors is surely allowed in a robust and competitive market. But Kerry McDonald doesn't think so:

"How do you think an Australian businessman feels, staying in New Zealand and seeing the Kiwibank ads?" Says Kerry McDonald, former head of BNZ in New Zealand.

Aussies and Kiwis have shown that they can remain strong friends and allies and still hand out a fair amount of sledging to each other as we rub along. So on that point I firmly agree with Sam Knowles who said:

...calling the Kiwibank television campaign reprehensible and outrageous seemed to be "more than a little excessive".

In addition, there is a practical limit to that nationalism. After all, many of the owners of those big 'aussie' banks are in practice Kiwi pensioners and investors as well - through shares held directly or pension funds. Besides, why should I care if the person putting their capital at risk lives in Dunedin, Sydney, London, or for that matter, just around the corner?

But moving on from the concern that we should not engage in too much Aussie bating, poor sensitive wilting flowers that they are, McDonald has a stronger point of criticism:

"...Kiwibank leverages off non-bank subsidies in its over-the-counter business." Effectively, Kiwibank was getting a government subsidy. Link to Stuff article.

More than that, there is an implied government guarantee - which in troubled times is worth a great deal - and in the public mind will not be extinguished in 2010.

But as Kiwibank remains popular, this argument seems unlikely to be heard. I doubt John Key will be keen to sacrifice any political capital to make loans or accounts more expensive at Kiwibank for the benefit of the other players... however rational that might be.

In the meantime, quit worrying and enjoy the adverts.


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