Bank of Montreal Attacks the Cliché That Women Are Bad With Money

Empowering push from FCB Canada

Gold digger. Trophy wife. Marry rich.

Bank of Montreal attacks clichés and stereotypes about women and finance in this short film by FCB Canada and director Hubert Davis.

We follow Jane from grade school through middle age. At every turn, relatives, co-workers, mentors and friends, among others, undermine her confidence about money. This starts in math class, where a teacher overlooks her and picks a boy to answer a simple arithmetic question:

BMO | Jane's Story

There's nothing particularly malicious afoot, but ingrained societal stereotypes and negative cues of all kinds erode Jane's ability to make financial decisions.

Smartly, the problem's cyclic nature is on full display, with women adding to her grief, sometimes in subtle ways. The opening nods in that direction, as does a sequence where Jane's mom buys her a jacket, calling it "retail therapy," bidding her not to tell Dad about the purchase. Such women, in positions of authority, have unconsciously absorbed the negative signals, and are transmitting them to the younger generation.

Thus, the notion that women are "bad" with money becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with potentially life-altering consequences. When Jane's husband passes away, she's confused about their investments, and winds up in reduced circumstances—though the narrative ultimately rewinds to remind us there's a better way.

Launched for International Women's Day, the two-and-a-half-minute film sprang from data showing just 30 percent of women believe they are financially knowledgable, while they accrue on average a third less in retirement savings than men.

Davis, an Academy and Emmy Award nominee in 2005 for his documentary short Hardwood (about his father, the former Harlem Globetrotters member Mel Davis), applies a deft nonfiction feel to "Jane's Story," driving home the idea that stereotyping and "jokey" comments can cause great harm. There's no high drama, just relatable vignettes with awkward moments building toward a downbeat conclusion tempered by a hint of hope for the future.

"We recognize the power of women and their contributions to the economy and believe that real financial progress—for everyone—starts with feeling empowered," says BMO marketing chief Catherine Roche.

The company has been a leader in this regard, committing $3 billion in capital to women-owned businesses in Canada, and becoming that nation's first bank to sign the UN Women's Empowerment Principles, which offer guidance on gender equality. "Jane's Story" lines up with past marketing efforts from the bank and FCB, such as these clever spots from 2017 celebrating successful women in business.

"The audience is anyone who has the power to shape a girl's future through their language and behaviors—teachers, parents, husbands, fathers, society, even the media," FCB Toronto co-creative chief Nancy Crimi-Lamanna tells Muse. "We really want people to have an 'a-ha!' moment when they recognize this unconscious bias, whether they've experienced it themselves or have unwittingly perpetuated it.

"By uncovering it, we're hoping to start a conversation and make people stop and think about the words they use around girls when it comes to money," Crimi-Lamanna says. "From suggesting boys are better at math to using words like 'shopaholic' or 'retail therapy,' we're telling girls that they are frivolous or not to be trusted with money. Over time, this can erode confidence."

Four different actors portray Jane: Afrodite Drossos (schoolgirl), Varvara Kim (teen), Amy Stewart (young adult) and Adrienne Wilson (middle age).

"We started by focusing on finding the best actors for the life stages of Jane we thought were crucial to the storyline—in this instance, our youngest Jane and our adult Jane," Crimi-Lamanna recalls. "Once we found them, we assembled the rest of the cast, as they needed to look similar to transition smoothly from one life stage to the next."

The subject matter evoked a strong response, with various production partners immediately sharing their own stories of bias once they read the script.

"This only got amplified on set," Crimi-Lamanna says. "It seemed every woman on the crew and in front of the camera had a story that matched one of our scenarios. [These ranged] from having a bill handed to their male counterparts, to being 'talked over' at work, or having a car dealer or [sales] agent talk to their boyfriend even when it was clear they were the purchaser. Every account validated that this was a story that needed to be told so we could change the behavior."

CREDITS

Client: 
Head, Marketing and Strategy: Catherine Roche
VP North American Brand & Social Media: Jennifer Carli
Director, Brand Advertising: Shelley Johnsen
Manager, Brand Management & Enterprise Marketing: Kaleigh MacMaster 

Creative
Chief Creative Officer: Nancy Crimi-Lamanna
Group Creative Director: Andrew McPhee & Jeremiah McNama
Associate Creative Director: Elma Karabegovic 
Copywriter: Shannon McCarroll 
Broadcast Producer: Anne-Marie Martignago 

Account Management
VP, Managing Director: Tracy Little
VP, Group Account Director: Erin Howes
Account Director: Allison Lochhead
Account Supervisor: Ali Gayowski

Project Management
Project Manager: Camille vanGroll 

Strategy
Chief Strategy Officer: Shelley Brown
Planning Director: Eryn LeMesurier

Production Credits
Agency Producer: Anne Marie Martignago
Director: Hubert Davis
Line Producer: Trudy Turner
DOP: Kiel Milligan
Editor – Rooster Editing: Michelle Czukar 
Executive Producer – Rooster Editing: Samantha MacLaren 
Colourist – Alter Ego Post: Eric Whipp 
Flame Artist – Alter Ego Post: Darren Achim 
Music Director/Composer - Apollo: Daenen Bramberger 
Executive Producer - Apollo: Tom Hutch
Casting director – Jigsaw Casting: Shasta Lutz

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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