The recent congressional hearings on credit card debt in America surely were a wake-up call for us here at Bank of the United States (heretofore referred to as “Large Bank”). We heard from struggling grandmothers who can’t afford yarn in which to make those beastly holiday sweaters no one wears, and college students who can’t buy their usual vegan sandwiches and small-business owners, all of whom are just the salt of this Earth and the Best People You’d Ever Want to Know, who are looking for a couple guys this Saturday morning, no heavy lifting, at least $200.
Then I went to see Lady Gaga and Madonna recently on their world tour, “You Were Born This Way Like a Virgin,” and it got me thinking: People can’t really help it if they were born into poverty and struggle with stuff like the high cost of organic eggs and usurious penalty interest rates. When they scream to the media and write to their legislators, they’re really saying, “I drank from the cup of humanity, and it was sour like chunky milk.” I mean, who are we fooling? Why not just come clean?
In light of these facts, I propose a campaign of full disclosure, a campaign so earnest, so honest that our constituents can’t help but fall out of their chairs. Some of those people may die, such as the more elderly or those with compromised immune systems, so we’ll need to prepare a contingency plan to collect their unpaid balances from their nearest relatives. Anyway, I envision this plan to be a multi-tiered, multi-pronged, latitudinal, cross-platform, linear confession, of sorts. We’re going to admit everything we’ve ever done wrong.
The honesty of this approach provides a two-fold benefit: First, it will literally take the wind out of our opponents’ sails by claiming their grievances and stealing them from under their feet; second, it will result in a radical change in public perception of our company resulting in increased profits, decreased regulatory oversight and bigger bonuses for the people who will have nothing to do with this campaign and have never set foot in America. I’m talking about that group of dudes in China who owns us.
In this campaign, the media, who have always been rather kind to us in light of what’s really going on, will become our best friends. We will be the dad who saved a drowning child; the girl who returned a wallet with $500 and certificates for odd stocks and securities; the guy who bought his cube-mate lunch. If the media says it’s true, who’s to say it’s not? We will gather support from every corner of this country for Large Bank. We will milk it like a Guernsey. We will shake it like a Polaroid picture. Our milkshake will bring all the boys to the yard cuz they’re like, it’s better than yours.
I give you the campaign.
First Prong of Three: Bait the Hook
This piece is the crucial bit of groundwork we must first lay. We implant the suggestion into our viewers’ minds that they must find out what’s going on, kind of like that urban legend where a spider implants its eggs into a victim’s forearm that you’ll read about later on Facebook and then check Snopes because you’re not being fooled.
We create a multi-platform advertising campaign around a single visual: a high-capacity washing machine, kind of old-timey looking with claw feet. It’s high-capacity because we have a LOT of dirty laundry, but it’s all getting clean in this turn-of-the-century machine that so wouldn’t touch that grease stain you got on the front of your shirt when you were trying to hold your slice in the proper New York way which always creates a gully through which pizza grease finds its way onto your clothing.
There’s a man inside the machine, we’ll call him Everyman, and he’s drowning in debt. Get it? The water’s rising and the soap bubbles are going to choke him. He can’t get out, no matter how hard he tries. We use this photo, plus the slogan: “We’re finally coming clean…” We’re going to just keep the text to those few words, ok? No huge paragraphs. People don’t read them. Who is the guy who keeps writing novels on highway billboards? Would someone fire him please? He can go work for a newspaper or something because everyone knows they could do so much better. They wouldn’t be biased. They’d get it right the first time.
We launch the campaign simultaneously in major cities throughout the country in the following mediums:
- Television, for people who don’t read. The commercial is 15 seconds, during which the viewer stares at the same poster I just described.
- Radio, for people who need to feel that they’re informed, even if they just listen to one AM channel on their way to work which reinforces every belief they already have. A voice will describe the poster. It’ll be effective.
- Online, for all the millennials out there who are just starting to understand what crushing debt feels like and what a debilitating damper it puts on their futures.
When everyone starts sharing our ads online and talking about them and they go viral on YouTube and people have been staring at them on the subways while the train just sits at the station because there’s train traffic ahead of us, we implement…
Phase Two: Hook the Fish
Now that everyone’s paying attention, we reveal that it’s Large Bank that is behind the campaign and we institute a second round of ads in which we tell them that we’re going to tell them everything that we’ve been doing that is not in their interest. We tell them that we’re going to tell them the truth about compound interest and how we give cards to people of proven credit untrustworthiness and how penalties help pay for my vacations to Fiji.
We’re going to explain that we’re going to explain why we target the financially illiterate and students and why we’re able to raise rates even when the customer isn’t late paying his bill. We further spread awareness through the following proven methods:
- Press conferences – We stage pop-up press conferences in major urban areas, kind of like those flash mob things where everyone shows up with an umbrella on a sunny day and dances to “The Sound of Music.” Or they gyrate in unison to “Bump ‘n Grind,” or whatever. The point is its spontaneous, therefore further enhancing the genuine, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, confessional-style nature of the campaign. At each press conference we say we’ll do the following: tell everyone what’s going on at some point in the future; promise honesty and integrity in all business dealings in every way; and lay out our point-by-point plan for hosting the perfect holiday gathering
- We mail everyone in America a Rubik’s cube with instructions for how to get all the little squares to be the same colors on every side and then say if they can figure it out a special message will appear on the red side with further instructions to visit a website. Once they get to the website, they will see the original ad of the washing machine we plastered everywhere. This time, underneath the ad, we’ll post even more instructions on how to participate in scavenger hunts in their local communities where they will search for clues all day and never find them because we’re going to fix the whole game
- We spam everyone with an email that describes the benefits of owning a vacation home and why you should never report your nanny’s income to the IRS plus tips on how to bribe her to keep her from going to the authorities with complaints about 24-hour-a-day jobs with no benefits
Phase Three: The Fish Fishes For Us
Now that our constituents are energized and ready to conquer the world on our behalf, we get them busy working. Studies have shown that people who believe that companies have been honest about something are 98 percent more likely to forget every heinous thing that company has ever done to deserve the working public’s wrath.
Take Exxon for example. They said, “Hey, we did it! We spilled a crap-ton of oil into the sea. Guilty as charged!” It didn’t matter that it was patently obvious that Exxon had done this, as any fool could see all that black sludge just sitting on top of the water’s surface. Faced with Exxon’s honesty, people were like, “Oh, they didn’t mean to,” and “I know they’re just doing the best they can to wipe all that oil off seals and birds,” and “Frankly, no one really cares about aquatic life anyway.”
Next, we find a hugely influential blogger deeply in debt to us who is constantly complaining about all his balances being so over his head and how he can’t even buy food and how he didn’t mean to rack up all that debt, it’s just that he couldn’t find a job for a really long time following graduate school. We woo him. We ply him with wine and roses. We take him out to dinner, call him the next day. In short, we show him WE CARE. We are ON HIS SIDE. His feelings change. Suddenly, he loves us and would do anything for us. Now we’re ready to ask him to start circulating that petition. The public is primed, ready to act on our behalf. People are salivating at the opportunity to give us whatever we want. And we do, we give it to them good. We grab ‘em by the neck, stroke it from behind. I’m sorry…where was I? Oh yes.
Our dear blogger introduces our petition to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act. We organize a march on Washington, where a really great public speaker who is super attractive and wears great suits grabs a megaphone and speaks to our frothing masses. Then, our public speaker takes the petition and hand-delivers it to Congress, which is very impressed by the sheer grass-roots nature of this uprising.
I don’t know. I sort of feel like this plan speaks for itself? If you have questions, message me on Monday. But don’t contact me before noon because my secretary and I sext in the mornings.
Kelly Rush received her MFA from The New School where she won the annual chapbook competition in non-fiction for a selection from her memoir. She is at work on a collection of essays.
Action Plan: Coming Clean in an Era of Very Deep Pockets in Which Lint and Old Gum Wrappers Get Trapped originally appeared in issue 33 of Fringe.