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As an avid infosthetics reader, you should be well accustomed with the notion of infographically animated movies. Well, you might be surprised that the latest infographic movie in Australia has caused a storm of controversy, which even motivated the country's Prime Minister to step in and comment that the company in question should have ''a long hard look at itself''.

The background is not that complex. Westpac, one of the only 4 large banks in Australia, recently raised its variable mortgage rate with 0.45 percentage points, nearly twice the level of the Reserve Bank's 0.25 percentage points increase, and significantly more than its 3 other competitors. While this initiative was already enough to score some major headlines in the national press, the bank tried to smooth things over by sending hundreds of thousands of Westpac customers an email on Monday night from the bank's retail chief explaining its supercharged interest rates.

Included in the email was an infographically animated video titled "Cool Bananas", justifying the bank's decision to raise interest rates by comparing the business of banking with selling banana smoothies. Just as a storm hits and destroys a banana field, and increases the prices of banana smoothies, the banks were hit by a crisis of their own, increasing their cost of lending. For those outside Australia, the chosen theme subtly points to an Australian phenomenon in its recent past, namely the banana shortage caused by Cyclone Harry in 2006, which increased banana prices across the country by 400-500%.

Australian banana farmers, advertising executives (already embarrassed worldwide by the recent Vegemite "iSnack 2.0" rename debacle), local politicians and bank customers somehow did not like the gesture. Their comments range from the utterly condescending tone of the movie, to the implied comparison between "an act of God" (the hurricane) and the (self-inflicted?) current banking crisis.

Read some the press coverage here and here.

Watch the infographic video in question below. (sorry for the bad quality, cannot seem to find better version)



Just two tiny points - the iSnack 2.0 'controversy' was almost certainly a deliberate effort to whip up a storm and grab airspace... and as far as storms go, we in Australia don't have 'Acts of God'. An 'Act of God' is a ludicrous term invented by insurance companies to get themselves out of their very job, and you shouldn't allow it.

Thu 10 Dec 2009 at 7:42 PM

"There's always money in the banana stand."

Fri 11 Dec 2009 at 4:33 AM

Strange that "sign equator principles" is shown as a "decision that may make us unpopular" - I doubt most of the Australian public have even heard of the Equator principles. And I doubt Westpac would have signed them if they didn't expect to raise more business by doing so.

Fri 11 Dec 2009 at 6:16 PM
Duncan Mortimer
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