, something in the story line seemed sour despite its sweet piano score.
The spot titled “Date” was the Bank Midwest ad depicting a father meeting his daughter’s escort, a kid with shaggy hair and a lip piercing. The boy, wearing a rocker tee under a flannel plaid shirt, plays air guitar as he waits.
The dad (also wearing a tee and a flannel shirt) looks alarmed, as if his daughter just won the dud from the Mystery Date game. Saving the day, a female banker drives up in a shiny car with a “better” choice: a clean-cut boy, smiling with perfect teeth.
The daughter gleefully chooses the preppy. The father is thrilled. And the rocker’s face falls with disappointment.
Judgmental, insensitive and stereotyped, says Phil Kinen, who adds that even the bank’s website preaches: “You’re unique. Shouldn’t your mortgage be?”
“The look on the kid’s face who was rejected ... it was too real. I have seen that look in too many kids’ faces. Like the kid who doesn’t get picked for the team. Or the kid that doesn’t get invited to the birthday party.
“It melted my heart.”
He wanted it gone.
Kinen taught theater at Shawnee Mission East and at an Olathe middle school for 15 years and for 18 summer seasons at Shawnee’s Theater in the Park. He’s a playwright, a film director and serves on the boards for Arts Alive and the Human Rights Campaign.
He knows story lines. He thought again about the theme of the 29-second story and got angry.
The next day, he called Bank Midwest, leaving three messages. But no one called him back. So he poured his angst out on his Facebook page. After it was reposted“shared” dozens of times, his phone rang. “I remember it was exactly 53 minutes after I posted,” he said.
Sharon Bock, from the public relations department, apologized for not calling him sooner but said she was on vacation. She also wanted to know what offended him in the commercial.
Kinen told her about all the kids he’s worked with, all the negative messages so many children and teens absorb based on how they look or not look. He’s taught kids to be who they are and to be proud, to not judge. He’s witnessed the “scraggly bobcats” become respected, appreciated and high paid.
“Judging a book by its cover,” he added, “especially before these children have chosen their paths, is not the message we should be sending out.”
Bock listened and said she’d get back to him. The next day, his phone rang again. The bank reviewed the story line and agreed. “They pulled it Wednesday night,” she said.
Whitney Bartelli, director of marketing, said that once the bank heard about it through social media, “We didn’t want to offend anyone.”
Kinen says he’s impressed with Bank Midwest.
“Not only did the bank respond in 24 hours, but they also said they were wrong,” he said. “And I applaud them maybe for even making the mistake in the first place. It’s made the world a nicer place.
“Because now we’re all talking about the bigger message.”