Making sarcastic comments about the intellectual and philosophical qualities of advertising or financial people is taking cheap shots in front of an open goal. But if they are asking for it, they are asking for it. Last weekend I drove past a billboard of the Belgian financial multinational Fortis on which I read in big letters (images on billboards are overrated anyway): “Life is a curve, where on this curve are you?” (and where on his curve is their new shareholder, the Libean leader Khadaffi? Or, where on this curve is Fortis itself? I’d say on a downslope….).
My first thought was: “Life is a curve? … No, it isn’t” Actually, it may be one of the most stupid comments ever printed on a billboard poster. Many beautiful, insightful, philosophical things have been said and written about life. Socrates wrote that true wisdom is in knowing how little we know about life, I wonder if he would have thought that deeming life ‘a curve’, was perhaps oversimplifying matters a bit. We all know the analogies that have become bad clichés: how life is a rollercoaster, a river. Or perhaps the bizarre quotes like “life is like a tin of sardines, we are all looking for the key.” Every era gets the quotes it deserves and these times may not be bizarre, a cliché, or wise. Our era might deserve populist, unintelligent quotes. Actually, I don’t know who to feel more sorry for, the idiot copywriter that wrote it, or the idiot that approved of it and paid several million euros for this campaign.
At the same time I felt rather offended actually. “Where on this curve are you?” they have the nerve to ask me. Not only do those arrogant people at Fortis have the poor wit to inform about the alleged ‘curviness’ of life, they immediately try to convince me that this is a given fact and, since I undoubtedly accept this fallacy, ask me about my location on this curve. For the sake of argument: would life have been a curve (which, by intelligent and logical lines of reasoning, it isn’t), it would have been completely impossible for anyone to say where on this curve you are. Theoretically, it could be possible to say where you were in life at a given point, after your death, but I doubt that Fortis has informants in the hereafter.
In a press release Adrian Martorana, the Fortis exec that is guilty of this so-called ‘corporate campaign’, states”The ‘Life is a curve’ campaign encourages people to think about their financial needs today and plan for tomorrow, with the help of a trusted partner such as Fortis.” And to make matters even worse: “We carried out extensive global research over 12 months to make sure our message was relevant in today’s environment.” I don’t expect bankers to be good philosophers, I do expect them to able to do a bit of decent research, draw some solid conclusions from it and act according to them. I might be expecting too much.
I should mentally have linked Fortis with qualities such as ‘future financial needs”and ‘trusted financial partner’. How on earth this should have been done by bad philosophy is beyond me. The creatives at their advertising agency Grey EMEA were probably a bit too high on bad cocaine. When they listened to the lyrics of their superior in philospophy, Jessica Simpson, who begins her song “Walkin’ Round in a circle” with the sentence “Life is a curve BALL”. There is virtually no job easier than that of creating a corporate advertising campaign to build a brand image. That’s why, when you fail as a proper artist or writer, you can still work in advertsing (and if you even fail there: ‘corporate advertising’).
But perhaps all this is my mistake. The fact that all I think about is their poor ability in logical reasoning, and not their superior qualities in banking, is all my mistake. Or maybe I just have it wrong. Maybe ‘life is a curve’ actually makes wonderful sense. I don’t think I’ll be taking any of my banking to the lovely people at Fortis. But they probably don’t care anyway. I don’t have a clue about where I am on my curve.