We’re Paying Attention

Excerpt from A Vision Greater Than Themselves: The Making of The Bank of Montreal, 1817-2017 by Laurence B. Mussio

In May 1991, the Bank launched a new image campaign – one that had emerged from the landmark Corporate Strategic Plan. Therefore, the slogan “We’re Paying Attention” represented an important public declaration of the direction of the Bank under Matthew W. Barrett and F. Anthony Comper. In some ways it sought to break away from the past, signalling that “Canada’s oldest financial institution” would take “a radical departure from conventional bank advertising. The theme of paying attention (and for the Francophone market “Au delà de l’argent, il y des gens”) was developed after a year of intensive research that polled Bank employees,

customers, and the public. The “customer of the 1990s” demanded more of everything, especially superior customer service. The focus on customer service was in a sense carried over from the 1980s, but there was an urgency and a fresh emphasis on broadening and deepening that commitment in light of the major new strategic direction the Bank was taking in the early 1990s. “Excellence in customer service is not something new at Bank of Montreal,” Tony Comper wrote in April 1991. “But for the first time we are going to talk openly about it to Canadians. Our new image campaign will stand out from any other bank advertising in the country, and will place us first in our customers’ minds.”

The creative element of the new campaign and slogan was executed by the Bank’s two advertising agencies, Vickers & Benson and Publicité Martin. Three initial English advertisements focused on three themes. The first was “Vision” – to introduce the world to the Bank’s commitment to change for the better and its promise of bringing service back to banking. The second element was “Employees,” featuring Bank of Montreal employees discussing their increased participation within the new strategy, as well as their individual approaches to superior customer service. The third element, “Customers,” focused on customers sharing their views on what set Bank of Montreal apart from and above other financial institutions.

The bracing freshness of the approach struck a chord with both customers and employees alike: “Banking is perceived as a very large and sometimes faceless operation,” one voice-over in a commercial suggested, “That’s what we’ve got to change … I think banking’s a customer business, a people business.” And another: “We want to walk around with pride, and we’re starting to do that.” That, in essence, is what the Bank was paying attention to: their customers, their employers, and the increasingly personalized nature of banking.


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