TD Banks On Elegant Video To Show Its Love Of Forests and Animals

In recent days I've acted like a real inconsiderate jerkwad. I waited until the wet clothes grew mildew mustaches before transferring them to the dryer. I was slow with a handkerchief and a "gesundheit, my fellow traveler!" when a random elevator dude sneezed. I bought the reduced-sugar version of Frosted Flakes, depriving my infant child of the precious chemical stimulants he needs to run himself ragged at day care before crashing at night, when the stars of primetime come out to shine for his parents.

As penance, I decided to tap into the one online-video genre guaranteed to either depress, enrage or bemuse me, the one in which Big Bank Extols Own Glorious Responsible Corporate Citizenship. The bank: TD. The beaming example of beyond-the-call-of-duty corporate munificence: Its efforts to save the forests, which are being overrun by loggers, litterers and carpenter ants as we speak.

Ha ha - no, mostly they're being destroyed by ATM receipt printouts, if I understand TD's reasoning correctly. According to its big-thinkin' policy page, TD produces lots and lots of paper; according to my second-grade teacher Ms. Serio, paper comes from trees. By the transitive property, then, if TD reduces its, like, paper footprint, many trees will live to see another day - or meet their untimely end at the hands of Wells Fargo, which totally won't be on TD's conscience.

As part of this un-deforestation effort, TD is asking for input from smart, forest-forward consumers, who have been only too happy to pass along paper-conservation tips like "beam monthly statements directly into cerebral cortex" and "wipe with hand towels." The company even employs a chief environment officer, who must have a hell of a time explaining exactly what she does at cocktail parties. "Yeah, I work for a bank. No, we don't drill for oil. Yes, I believe baby otters are cute. No, I don't wish to see baby otters glazed in crude." Etc.

As someone who expects corporate entities to behave with some moderate degree of respect for the people and world around them, I have no idea why TD is so proud of its save-the-forests-and-the-little-critters-who-live-there effort. This is something everybody oughta be doing on some basic level, no? I suppose TD's "look at us! we like trees!" proclamations are better than torching hundred-year-old oaks for sport, but I'm not sure I see a link between "being nice to forests" and "tsunami-like surge in consumer mindshare/heartshare/walletshare." So in my mind at least, this campaign starts behind in the count.

Which brings us to the video that serves as its online centerpiece, which is actually… good? Yeah, it kinda is. Over the course of a minute or so, TD elegantly recaps why forests are important: They house all sorts of species and plants and Grimm characters, the oxygen they produce keeps the global ecosystem breathing free and easy, stuff like that. This shouldn't be something anyone needs to be reminded about, but somehow TD's gentle approach resonates.

The clip also pulls off a neat-o tech trick, synchronizing its main video track (footage of a 100-yard stroll through the woods) with as many as four other screens, which pop up and disappear willy-nilly. When the narrator discusses the wide range of species, we're simultaneously treated to images of young deer; when the narrator talks about plant life, we see mushrooms and weathered trees. As all this is transpiring, animated (I think) birds swoop in and around the video frames. Even the video-load process elicits a chuckle, with the usual blank progress bar replaced by a series of status updates: "Loading in forest… herding the animals… waiting on the ducklings." Taken in concert, these flourishes render the clip far more affecting than anything affiliated with a bank-sponsored do-gooder program has any right to be.

Yes, TD uses the expected somber-voiced narrator and throws out a bunch of obvious stats ("90% of North Americans believe forests need to be protected"; the other 10% apparently believe forests can fend for themselves, because parents and arborists have worked together to reduce the incidence of tree-on-tree bullying). But the clip is short, simple and sober-minded, delivering a message without preaching or prodding. Big banks in self-backslapping mode rarely show such restraint. Nicely done, TD.

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