Citigroup's weird, scary ads.

Commentary about business and finance.
July 31 2002 2:30 PM

Citi of Fear

What are Citigroup's weird ads really saying?

Surely one of the most bizarre ad campaigns of recent years has been Citigroup's "Live Richly" series of billboard, TV, and print ads, all of which carry the implicit message, "Money isn't all that important"—a healthy worldview, perhaps, but not one that's necessarily reassuring coming from an institution whose sole job is to protect your money. In the wake of the recent allegations against Citigroup—that the bank assisted Enron in hiding some of its debts, and that its decision to underwrite a $12 billion bond offering for WorldCom may have been influenced by the closeness of one of its analysts to the company—the campaign has never seemed more worrisome. Indeed, it's difficult to walk past Citi ads these days and not engage in a mental conversation with them.

Dramatis personae: Me and Citigroup, the latter represented solely by its ad slogans.

Advertisement

ME: Um, hi. Look, I know this is an odd question to ask, but I've been reading some things in the papers about you guys lately, and I just want to make sure: Is my money OK?

CITIGROUP: People with fat wallets are not necessarily more jolly.

ME: What the hell is that supposed to mean? All I want to know is, you haven't gone and done anything irresponsible with my checking account, have you?

CITIGROUP: Holding shares shouldn't be your only form of affection.

ME: Oh, God. You have done something with my money, haven't you? Just tell me what you've done. I promise not to be mad.

CITIGROUP: He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

ME: You put it all into WorldCom, didn't you?

CITIGROUP: Funny how nobody ever calls it warm, soft cash.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.