An ANZ Bank advertising campaign depicting a comically unhelpful middle-aged banker has come under renewed criticism, this time from the banking union which says it unfairly disparages employees.
The Finance Sector Union said the so-called "Barbara" advertisements actually reflect consumer anger with banks and their policies in general, rather than staff.
"We don't think producing ads that denigrate the industry is the way to go," said FSU national secretary Leon Carter, adding that the ANZ's "own behaviour about excessive charges and interest rates contributes to how people feel about the industry".
Customer service at banks have come under closer scrutiny in recent weeks after law firm Maurice Blackburn announced the largest class action suit in Australian history aimed at recouping an estimated $5 billion of "penalty fees" paid by customers to banks over the past six years.
To date, 105,000 Australians have expressed interest in participating in the case, Maurice Blackburn said. The case will name ANZ, its rivals Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac and eight other banks as defendants.
The Advertising Standards Bureau in March dismissed a viewer's complaint that the ANZ ad was "sexist and ageist" and vilified mature female bank employees.
In defending the ad at the time, ANZ said its decision to cast actress Genevieve Morris as the bank manager was based on her "ability to deliver the comedic script in a satirical manner and also because of her expressions and mannerism".
The ANZ today dismissed the FSU's complaint. "The character 'Barbara the bank manager from A Bank' came directly from customer research," an ANZ spokeswoman said.
"Barbara is used in a humorous way to parody the beliefs the public have about the banking industry, and other services industries in general," the bank said. "It's a way for us to humbly admit those customer perceptions - and then try and highlight what we are doing to further improve our services."
Mr Carter said the union would rather ANZ celebrate its positive differences than denigrate others, while conceding that the ads had provoked the odd chuckle.
COMMENT: The Finance Sector Union is 100% right on this issue.
The ANZ is one of the worst banks in Australia, yet this idiotic
advertisement tries to portray itself as squeaky clean. The sooner
this ad is scrapped the better.