Australians with a Commonwealth Bank mortgage would be justifiably peeved — it’s raised rates 0.30 percentage points following Tuesday’s RBA decision to lift them 0.25.

This follows its decision on 9 January to boost rates on variable mortgages by 0.1 per cent, which means it has now upped rates by “0.15 per cent above official RBA moves this year”, notes The Herald Sun.

That doesn’t make the bank any better or worse than the other big three. After all, last time it was NAB that broke away from the pack with the first extra rate rise. But for a bank with the slogan “Determined to be Different“, it’s pretty good at behaving predictably.

In January, the CBA press release cited the banking group’s exposure to additional funding costs of approximately $100 million since the beginning of the liquidity crisis as the reason for the rate boost.

They’re being a bit more coy on figures this time, but Crikey can suggest where they could have saved at least $50 million. That’s how much Commonwealth Bank’s new — and much derided — ad campaign* apparently costBefore ad spend.

Beleaguered Commonwealth customers would be justified in asking whether they’re paying for the weird, and mostly unintelligible, concoction now. (Watch one of the ads here; for the campaign’s microsite, complete with a section on CB’s touchy, feely “community involvement”, head here.)

It’s “a mockumentary-style campaign based around the bank working with its cast of well-meaning, but culturally clueless American advertising executives and invariably polite, persistent and patient Australian clients”, says Campaign Brief.

Neil Shoebridge is more direct, calling it “a clear contender” for the worst ad of 2008 in the AFR .

The ad was commissioned in April last year from US agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, a controversial move in itself. (There’s more than a little glee in Australian ad circles about the tangled mess it’s become). This was before the whole US sub-prime crisis really hit home, but at a time when inflation and interest rates were definitely on the rise in Australia.  

Asked Shoebridge before the latest rate rise: “Why did CBA’s marketers think they could use a slogan such as ‘Determined to be different’ without providing any evidence that CBA is different to its rivals? Why did they think consumers would respond to such a self-indulgent, myopic concept?”

The promise to be different came complete with a set of “new truths of banking”:

Ten points for trying and all, but at some point they forgot they were a BANK. Well, until it came time to raise rates.

*(Actually, sorry, it wasn’t an ad campaign, but an “entertainment device through which we are delivering Commonwealth Bank messages,” as Commonwealth’s marketing director, Mark Buckman, told The SMH.)

Peter Fray

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