Peter York on Ads: No 282: JP Morgan - The bank that likes to seem irrational

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The Independent Culture
The world, as we know, is ruled by American investment banks. Wall Street only failed as satire because the reality is utterly beyond parody. And the 1990s reality is that those businesses are now twice as big, doing twice the deals, reshaping and consolidating Europe's businesses as well as the US's. They're over here now and the City of London is the main jumping-off point for the European leg of the world-domination plan.

But why was JP Morgan on ITV - on Carlton - recently? You'd think there'd be cheaper, more focused ways of reaching the mere 200 or so heavy-hitting clients that it is interested in.

But these 30 seconds weren't selling to the Footsie CEOs and chairmen - or not directly. The objective seemed to be recruitment. JP Morgan wants you. It's selling you on the culture, the values, the brand essence of JP Morgan (and hopefully impressing those CEOs along the way). That's why it's interesting that - at first sight anyway - it seems to have got it quite spectacularly wrong for London. Because, judging from this, JP Morgan is peopled entirely by mad, angry moonies who sing company songs and swear Boy Scout oaths. By British standards it's profoundly creepy.

Thus, for instance, the voice-over intones: "I will never let good interfere with great", "I will do more than what's expected", "I will not always have the solution but I will find it".

All this against a portentous little black and white film of those cross, mad, important business people hurrying - hurrying in New York, hurrying in London and hurrying on to Eurostar to conquer Europe. There's an unhappy- looking black man slomo-ing in a New York commuter crowd while he makes his vows. There's a crosspatch lady banker striding a De Gaulle-ish tubeway vowing to give 'em hell. Mooniest of all there is a kind of FBI triple- hunk power-suiting his way through Smithfield Market like something out of The X-Files. At the end - and this may just mean there's method in the apparent madness - three people stare to camera and say "I work for JP Morgan". Two are women; one is European (possibly Italian), one is Japanese, one is black. JP Morgan is saying it's really international, it's outside the system (think Leeson) and it's an equal-opportunity employer. All that might cause a lot of Britons not to bother about war-time humour and irony when the Klondike is beckoning.