Bad Karma

by Jeff Hirsch

John Lennon must be turning over in his grave. First, “Revolution” and “Instant Karma” were used in TV commercials to sell sneakers. At least the latter spot was successful in equating hard work with athletic performance and reward. Very karma-like, indeed.

Now “Instant Karma” has been co-opted by the banking giant Chase to spotlight its entry to the Southern California market. If you recall, after receiving bailout money from the federal government, Chase got a screamin’ deal on Washington Mutual after its collapse last year. Chase quickly went about converting all the old WaMu locations here in California and spreading the word with millions of dollars of TV ads, billboards, radio spots, display ads and more.

The “Instant Karma” ad features a toothless musical version of John’s rant with carefully edited lyrics. We see visual cliché after cliché of how the good life in California is perceived by out-of-touch New York copywriters and art directors, capped off by a man walking into a Chase branch being greeted by a warm, beautiful, friendly smiling, young woman who asks, “How may I help you?” in her most empathetic voice.

Hmm. Can you stop raising my credit card interest rates and turning down my mortgage re-fi? But I digress.

This prominent member of the elite banking establishment, with its bloated executive pay, bailout money and tin ear where the consumer is concerned, picks, of all songs, one that says, “Instant Karma is going to get you. It’s gonna knock you off your feet.”

Really? What the…? Noway!

More on John

I had the pleasure of dining with a friend from high school in New York City over the summer. We met on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, my old stomping grounds. I had not been in the neighborhood for a while, and while it should not have been a surprise, it was disheartening to see the diners, neighborhood bars and other local businesses replaced by multiple Starbucks, The Gap and all the other big chains operations.

A truly iconic restaurant/bar/hang out, Ruskay’s, was now a Duane Reade super-drug store. John was known to hang out there back in the day, and I mentioned this irony to my friend.

She told me that one day in the late 70’s she was walking down 72nd Street when she saw a familiar face. “Hi! I know you,” she said. He replied, “I know you too.” They spent five minutes chatting, trying to figure out how they knew each other when she realized that she was talking to an ex-Beatle.

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