Goldman Sachs Group has been populists’ favorite whipping boy. The SEC lawsuit. Controversy over Lloyd Blankfein’s “doing God’s work” quote. The giant piles of profits. The whole “vampire squid” thing.
So it isn’t surprising that Goldman would want to change the subject. In today’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times, we see the first fruits of that effort, a new ad campaign in which the House of Goldman aligns its business with the goals of serving communities, creating jobs and helping companies raise money to expand.
The ad is split down the middle, with one side showing a line of huge wind turbines and other showing a smiling worker in a hard hat. The tagline: “Progress is everyone’s business.”
Deal Journal asked Dean Crutchfield, a senior partner at brand-consulting firm Method, to review the ads and tell us whether the spots get the job done. An edited Q&A with Crutchfield is below:
Deal Journal: What do you think of Goldman’s new ads?
Crutchfield: It’s a major breakaway from what they’ve typically done. I think after this righteous infliction of retribution they’ve received…they want to start creating more of a message of how they benefit the world in what they do, as opposed to the details of how fantastic they are.
DJ: A key word in the Goldman ads is “progress.” What does that convey to the public?
Crutchfield: It’s a little bit of a double edge. It’s playing off, ‘it’s green,’ but at the same time they’re kind of hinting, Goldman Sachs: progress, moving forward, forgetting the past. I don’t think that’s going to be so easy to achieve with one ad.
DJ: Why the wind turbines, and a guy in a hard hat?
Crutchfield: The fact that they’ve picked something which seems to be on people’s minds in terms of the green revolution is interesting; it’s very poignant. I think the only issue is it’s in some way ….groveling around to conjure a survival strategy out of a sound bite. What else comes from here?
DJ: What’s the real value of these ads?
Crutchfield: Stocks don’t have a memory recall button, but the public does. There’s that court of public opinion and that’s what this is aimed at. [Goldman] is trying to show that it’s shedding the arrogance. I’m not convinced it can do that.
DJ: Goldman has been held up as an icon of Wall Street greed. Does anything in this ad fix that?
Crutchfield: I don’t think this is going to cure it. This is their own cleanup program, and it’s going to take literally months if not years to change that.