Commentary

Capital One "While Banking" Clips Must Stop. Now.

This column is a plea. This column is a prayer. This column is an appeal to our collective senses of decency and mercy, an entreaty to a select group of individuals to act in the best interest of our shared humanity, even though to do so would frustrate its own commercial aims.

This column is a plea to Capital One to cut its annual media budget by like $400 million.

I'm not anti-ad or anti-marketing, because I understand that somebody has to underwrite the televised entertainments that keep the demons of boredom and family at bay. Just as importantly, commercial messages offer a respite from the dramatic fire that continues to rage unchecked on Grey's Anatomy. Remember that one time when the patient was all "oooh! My left aortic ventricle hurts!" and Dr. Mer gazed off into the distance and was all "yes, my heart hurts too" and we were all "hello, sexy metaphor!!!"? Only the studied quirkiness of an adjacent Target spot saved me from gnawing off a toenail in a fit of won't-they-just-boink-already-and-get-it-over-with? pique.

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No, my problem is specifically with Capital One, which continues to shove its brand presence far enough down my throat as to defy surgical extraction. The company reintroduces itself to me during ballgames, sitcoms, dramatic procedurals, non-dramatic non-procedurals, newscasts, awards shows, weather bulletins and tests of the emergency broadcast system. Wherever I go, there Capital One is. And now, perhaps having found an extra $745222632654 in overdraft fees in the cushions of its break-room couch, the company has invaded my computing machine with what it calls an "online digital series."

"While Banking" is no more a series than a quartet of semi-related 30-second spots plopped together in the interest of, I dunno, brand solidarity? Yes, the series was Internetified via a social media component - the comedic conceit that underpins the fifth and final clip, which debuted last week, was chosen from online customer/fan submissions - but it seems clear to me that somebody snuck a look at these things and immediately relegated them to YouTube purgatory. Why else wouldn't Capital One have splashed them all over television, like it does with every other piece of video its marketers fart out? It can't be a coincidence that all but the final clip run precisely 30 seconds in length.

Whether or not they were deemed not ready for primetime, the "While Banking" clips attempt to answer a single vexing question: What activities can one enjoy while simultaneously fiddling with Capital One's mobile banking app? Per the videos, one can perform an elegant pas de deux, spin a technotrancey DJ set, duet on the third most powerful power ballad in the REO Speedwagon catalog with a dummy and shred. The whimsy, such as it is, comes from the juxtaposition of frenetic activity with the Capital One app's mind-blowingly impressive ease of use. Whimsy!

The user-suggested clip fares even worse, owing to its extended length. In "Steel Cook Warrior" (Steel Cook/Iron Chef… oh, Momus himself could not have devised a more delightful satiric analogue!), two contestants manage to chop onions, whisk eggs and manipulate the Capital One app, even as they're pelted with tomatoes. That's the entire gag. That's where it begins and that's where it ends.

All of this is to say: "While Banking" is as extraneous as any "video series" in recent memory, and as such only serves to amplify my frustration with Capital One's ubiquity. I don't know how to end this column, other than to address Capital One as if it's a sentient being, rather than a faceless corporate leviathan. Here goes: Capital One, you may be the single ideal partner for all my banking needs (which, as of this writing, include a non-demagnetized ATM card and approximately two paper checks per month). You may have responsive customer service, low interest rates and forgiving administrative policies - none of which, I might add, my current bank comes remotely close to providing. But it doesn't matter. Just as I won't indulge the perky telesurvey gal who calls every night at dinnertime, I won't do business with you until you find a board-certified professional to treat your commercial mania.

Please stop. That's all.

3 comments about "Capital One "While Banking" Clips Must Stop. Now.".
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  1. Kathy Broniecki from Envoy, Inc., June 6, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

    My favorite email of the day and it's because of this brilliantly funny line: "And now, perhaps having found an extra $745222632654 in overdraft fees in the cushions of its break-room couch, the company has invaded my computing machine with what it calls an "online digital series."

  2. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 6, 2013 at 6:14 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more!
    Btw, the metaphor of Merdith and the broken aorta guy sailed right past me.

  3. Jen Mcgahan from MyTeamConnects, June 6, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

    Hilarious. Just as fish are the last to discover water, I see that you are right. Cap One IS everywhere. Now what do we do?

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