Money goes to market : the marketization and promotion of the British joint stock banks 1950-1990.
While most advertising studies examine the promotion of goods, this study of 50 years of British
bank advertising examines the promotion of intangible services (money). After World War Two,
regulatory and social changes propelled British banks into the market. The banks employed
marketing communication to accommodate themselves to an emerging consumer society in three
phases: pre-marketing (after 1950), expansionary (after 1970) and saturation (after 1985) periods.
A content analysis of key psycho-social values contained in 805 post-1950 print and television
advertisements revealed the banks' adjustment to an increasingly 'de-traditionalised' society in
which citizens had to be addressed as autonomous, consuming subjects. Applying Marchand's
(1986) insights into the therapeutic role of advertising, the study reflects on how advertising
agencies assuaged the publics' institutional alienation with comforting metaphors of the 'friendly
bank'; addressed countercultural disdain to a mass society by affirming individuality within a
rhetoric of customised services and empowered consumers (Frank, 1997); and counteracted
cynicism towards a glutted promotional culture by constructing more 'diverse', 'realist', and
The advertisements also articulated new money values, softening the transition from a
productionist or war economy (in which money was represented as scarce, precious, and in need of
safekeeping) to a consumer economy (in which money was an abundant necessity, in need of
constant circulation). Credit, the enabling instrument of this circulation, was presented as a viable
means to maintain and extend one's lifestyle. 'Identity work' and 'money work' appeared to be
intertwined deeply in a consumer culture.
The discussion of values was extended with a design analysis of bank television branding
campaigns, which found that practical values coexisted with postmodem sensibilities. Further, a
reception study of 31 young people's interpretation of 9 television campaigns describes how they
engaged with advertisements as both media-literate audiences seeking entertainment (and
speculating about the intention behind the advertising codes), as well as financial consumers looking
for survival tips in the consumer economy.
The study also revealed underlying tensions in the banks' contemporary practices: marketbased
pressures for brand distinction vs. price competition; consumers' demands for practical
fmancial information vs. pressures of communicating in a promotional culture; and profit-driven
openness to all consumers vs. market exigencies of targeting profitable niches.