Friday, June 13, 2008

The Twelfth Commandment

All Media - Advertising - The Gist

No, it’s not what you think. The title of this post isn’t the title of a movie I’m reviewing. It isn’t an album either neither is it a documentary. It’s just an experience I’ve gone through recently that I thought I should share with you.

Do you know those automatic cash dispensers better known as ATMs (Automated/Automatic Teller Machines)? When they were introduced into the Nigerian financial scene by the banking sector I was one of the few people that danced madly in joy over the news. The reason for this was clear. In my line of thinking, ATMs meant PC Networking, Networking meant Computers and Computers meant Civilization. Hurray! Digital Civilization had come to Nigeria!

I remember waiting earnestly for my bank to issue me with the cherished plastic. After years of running a paper-based account I was finally going to say good riddance to the things of old and move up to the swipe-and-pay. No more torn bank books for me or having to sign twice behind the slip after waiting 30 minutes for the female cashier to freshen her make-up or the male one to stop chatting up the girl ahead of me in the queue.

And so one day it was my turn to be issued with plastic cash. My happiness knew no bounds. I wasn’t swayed by the fact that it wasn’t exactly a license for uncontrolled spending (a.k.a. a credit card) or that a few days ago, I’d read an article in a national newspaper captioned: “Beware of the Automated Thieving Machine”. Not even the mandatory 2-day wait for my account to fully migrate to digitaldom or the 105 Naira ATM charge deducted at my first withdrawal was going to dampen my enthusiasm. I had unshakeable faith in digital power!

“Wetin concern Media Nemesis with ATM?” you might ask. Well maybe it’s the media content developer in me. Deep in my mind every time I approach the automated money-doler, I can’t help but wonder how much underutilized these machines are in reaching out to people. All the ATMs I know just play annoyingly short and rubbishy repetitive snippets of classical music which a digital voice tells you to wait for your transaction. And the screens mostly deliver adverts tailored only towards the deploying financial institution offering you crazy loan schemes.

Now I’ll need your help here. I want you to close your eyes and imagine…

Imagine if the FIRST TIME you heard bits of Sasha’s “Adara”, 9ice’s “Gongo Aso” or P-Square’s “Do Me” was on an ATM machine! I can imagine the conversation going something like this:

A: Have you heard the latest?

B: No! Wetin dey?

A: Ah! You too slack oh! P-Square now have a new hit track out!

B: Oh yeah? Where you hear am? Which radio station?

A: Radio ke? Have you been to XYZ Bank lately?

B: No! When I no get money? Abi you pay inside my account?

A: Pay wetin? Abeg check out their ATM jo! Even if you just go there and pretend to do an Account Inquiry, you’ll hear all the latest tracks pumping out from the speakers. I even heard D-Banj’s latest CD there too. And there’s Ruggedman, Konga, Weird MC, Sammy Okposo, BOUQUI, even the latest boys from Aba

B: Eh! Abeg I dey go there now-now Make e no be say na me be the last to hear am.

Yeah, I know the idea might even sound lame but how would we know the efficacy of it if we never try it out anyway? CD releases, Nollywood movie trailers and screenings times, shows and events, indeed everything entertainingly gratifying could turn out to be fodder for this advertising cannon. Still imagining, just reflect on the even more numbers of customers they might reach if the telecom companies partner with banks to lease some ATM screen space to advertise their promos.

It’s not just the telecoms either. Imagine if Bank PHB gave us all the updates on The Apprentice Africa via their ATM screens and printed out the viewing times along with your financial details on the ATM receipt? Imagine if Skye Bank had printed out special complimentary Celebrity Takes 2 tickets for customers who use the ATM a certain number of times? Or if UBA had dome the same thing for the 2008 AMMAs? It’s a well worn cliché but if media marketers had just a little bit of imagination to utilize the numerous ATMs around instead of scrambling to erect massive bridge-like billboards, the possibilities would just start becoming endless.

Of course, typical with the Nigerian-faddish way of thinking, the possibilities of abuse would be endless too.

One can equally imagine the resulting cacophony that would result from the simple act of turning an ATM into a jukebox as neighboring banks would jostle not just for our accounts but our auditory senses as well. The issue of copyright infringement would also rear its ugly head in the hallowed halls of banking as greedy marketers no doubt would eagerly sign up to sell the same content to competing banks without any resultant remuneration to the artistes themselves. And which octogenarian would want to have his/her slowly failing hearing damaged more by “Do Me” blaring from a machine that’s already tough enough to manipulate as it is?

And if the marketers were given domain over the ATM screen then it would become an advertising Armageddon even worse than what we get when watching TV soaps. We’d be made to spend more and more time waiting for our transactions as we are bombarded with commercials for soaps, toothpaste, churches, cigarettes, condoms, furniture, milk, sweets, and yes, the banks too. The advert glut and the resulting chaos from it might be enough to even make you hunger once more for the days of paper…

My reverie is over. Much as the ATM symbolizes a movement towards the digital future for Nigeria I think I’d rather leave them as they are for now. ATM-based marketing can further enhance the entertainment experience if well handled but when last did we ever handle anything right?

Now going back to the title of this post, I assume everyone knows the 11th Commandment, right? (In case you didn’t it is this: Thou shall not get caught.) Well, recently, I was FLAT BROKE but that wasn’t enough to shake me like in the past. After calmly strolling to my friendly neighbourhood ATM in my friendly neighbourhood UBA premises, I slotted in the plastic key to my account and dutifully followed all the instructions on the screen. Of course, the amount was also dutifully deducted from my account and the card dutifully popped out…WITHOUT THE MONEY!!!

Not believing what I was seeing, I decided to take up the case with Customer Care. Unfortunately, the guards who must have heard all the ATM tales of woe dutifully and politely blocked the door (it was almost 6pm) and told me the problem would resolve itself within 48 hours.

48 hours?!? Now I was mad! Having nothing more on me than a damaged N20 note and none of my pride, I first tried to bluff, then seeing that wouldn’t work, I put on my best British aristocrat mannerism and politely asked the guards for a tiny N20 loan to find my way home. The guards in question must have heard those lines several times too because they both politely shook their heads: NO.

I was too weak to even drop the Briton routine and switch back to my Agbero one. To cut the long story short, a young Police dude who’d suffered the same ATM dupery saved the situation by lending me the said amount without even wanting to know if he’d ever see me again. Now I can’t really say bad things about the Police anymore.

For someone like me who likes to throw money around when people ask for my help, it sure humbled me how desperate one can go for just N20. And yes, the money did revert back to the card within the 48 hours as promised.

What lessons have I learnt from this? You just might consider taking your bank book along ‘cause you just might not know when that ATM will disappoint you. And I have learnt the Twelfth Commandment: THOU SHALL NEVER TRUST AN ATM…

PS: In case the whole idea of ATM marketing fully kicks off in Nigeria and becomes a money spinner for advert companies and media execs, just remember: I said it first!


Buttercup said...

oh wow...songs playin from an ATM?? lol thats a new one...awwwwwww the last bit of the post almost made me shed a tear or two..

trae_z said...

yeah you sure did say it first. it's good to be imaginative, copy writting ish and all.

was also pleasantly surprised to hear about ATM transaction reversal...learnt that on the "banking" job! ***inflicts self with two know your products slaps***

final words: "fuck the police"..."#20 dey change life oh".

Naughty Eyes said...

@ Buttercup: Thanks for dropping by. Trust me, I shed a tear too for my torn pride.

@TRAE: Long time! Was surprised about the reversal too. Swear words? Naughty, naughty... Beginning to love the police a little though who knows if the guy that helped me out exthorted the dough from a helpless motorist?

FineBoy Agbero said...

Was blog-strolling and I came across yours. Nice!
Nice concept abt d ATM-ads...
True, be way of over-relying on those cards. They can mess one up as they did me once. Got stranded with my g/f on the Island. Had to call for help.
Again, glad u leanrt d had way dat ppl wont easily part with 20 bucks, even if u were dying. Happened to me too; but in my true Agbero way, it is do-me-I-do-u. I don't give nobody no free money nomore!