Commercial Break: The Fortress of Investment Solitude   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 8 October 2012
Program: Hardball
Channel: MSNBC
Conglomerate: Comcast

Advertiser: Fidelity Investments
Owned By: The founder’s offspring.
Pitch: Trading stocks and stuff would be so much cooler if it was anything like this commercial, wouldn’t it?

Cable news and business channels are lousy with advertisements for ways to invest, trade stocks, and otherwise play in the great financial casino from the comfort of your own home.  As a group they’re all very similar, with lots of cool graphics that show not only how powerful their investing tools are, but also how much they make you feel like you’re playing a really shiny video game.

This ad for Fidelity is fairly typical along those lines, boasting about how easy their services make it to cut through the clutter and purchase just the stocks that you (yes, you!) want to purchase.  In this case, it’s something called the “Fidelity Stock Screener”, which is just a gussy way of saying that they’ve got a database and you can run searches against it.

As with most of these ads, the graphics are the real selling point, because boring old stock investing is much neater if you can see colored charts that move and resize themselves like you’re in some kind of sci-fi movie.  In this case, the advertisers have chosen as their cool visual hook a bunch of crystal looking columns that rise up out of the floor:

Fortress of Dick-itude0

They can be a great people, Fid-El.  They wish to be.

As we switch from the overhead view to a more intimate, over-the-shoulder look, we peek at how you (yes, you!) can control this fantastic assortment of crystal columns:

Fortress of Dick-itude1

The stock market on Krypton has nowhere to go but up! 

And there, in the lower left, is the punchline that reveals just how dumb this whole thing really is.  They’re selling their little website as the coolest looking thing this side of a Hollywood command center, but:

The Crystals Are a Lie

“All screens are for illustrative purposes”, which means no crystal towers for you!  It also means that there is a chewy and delicious irony here.  Not only is the commercial so full of shit that it has to basically deny everything it does in the fine print; but they’re selling this as a tool for savvy, intelligent investors, whom they think are so dumb that they’ll only make that savvy, intelligent decision after being wowed by cheap computer graphics.

The kicker comes at the end, when a voiceover promises “200 free trades when you open an account”, except that opening an account is very, very expensive:

We Only Want a Lot of Your Money

“Valid only for Fidelity customers opening a Fidelity retail account and funding it with at least $100,000 in case and/or eligible securities”.  In other words, they want more money up front from you than they probably spent creating this ad, but they’re going to give you a few “free” trades (which can still lose you money) in exchange.  Regular video games have never looked so good.

Posted October 12, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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