You Tell Us: Point, shoot, deposit
on January 25, 2011
At first, I thought they might be looking at their victim, reacting to their bloody deed, her with a glee in her face that approached the psychotic, him with a rather more appropriate look of moral ambivalence. I was wrong. They were looking at a check. With a large, bright, eye-catching advertisement perched in a tall window and aimed with deadly precision out into the chaotic intersection of Broadway and 51st Street in Oakland, Chase Bank is encouraging passers-by to:
Point. Shoot. Deposit.
Their money. With their phones.
In the ad, two nondescript, probably-white-but-shadowed-enough-to-appear-plausibly-Latino models for whom perhaps this modeling job was a career breakthrough, portray a heterosexual couple of indeterminate age, not teenagers, but not quite into their thirties, yet. He has a pleasant face, but it’s the roundness of it, the suggestion of sag at the jowls, that leads me to believe the big 3-0 is just around the corner for him. His expression is slightly dubious, or possibly confused.
Whereas she radiates energy, which I interpret as a nervous energy. She’s a worrier having a good day. She is passionate, prone to extremes of emotion which, once not too long ago, he found charming, even enthralling, perhaps some spontaneous burst of exuberance across a bar or the bleachers was the very first thing she ever did that caught his attention. Now he fears it. In the ad she smiles, extremely. Brightly, too, in a way perhaps meant to remind the viewer, or future casting directors, assuming the ad plays in New York and LA, of Julie Roberts’ signature fluorescent toothiness. Her eyebrows arch in a preternatural position of happiness. She might be cross-eyed.
The prospect of using her iPhone to deposit money in what is presumably their joint savings account is the best thing that has happened to her today, which is likely a weekday, as he is in a bland white shirt and pale tie, slightly overdressed for the times, but you figure she likes him that way. Her day has been more casual. She is showing the skin of her thin shoulders and her wiry, yoga-toned upper arms; he may have reconciled himself to the coming of the sag, but she will likely fight it for another fifteen to twenty years. Her fingernails are painted white and she has a ring on her left ring finger, so they are probably married, although perhaps they are only just engaged, only just starting out their lives together — surely for one of them, probably him, this is a second marriage — and this is the first check, perhaps from her wealthy father (divorced from her mother, to whom she is very close) being tele-deposited into their brand new joint account, by iPhone, which admittedly is a pretty great modern banking development. At any rate, they are an uncommon-looking team of killers ripe for a fall.
Along with the ad’s text, it was the look on her face, and the disparity between their apparent attitudes — and the important fact that my first view of the ad as I sat at a long, long traffic light on the far side of the intersection was partially blocked by a black Ford Explorer — that made me think they might be looking at the body of a wounded man, at whom one of them had pointed and shot, and in whom a bullet had been deposited. Fleetingly, I thought this might be an ad for the Red Cross, that maybe, in a burst of civic good will, Chase had donated that much-stared-at space at the bustling crossroads with all the red lights.
I thought it might be an ad encouraging passing drivers and pedestrians to make a deposit at a blood bank, to help replace all the blood we lose after so much pointing and shooting and depositing of lead into bodies and blood into the soil or onto the sidewalks of Oakland.
I thought it might be a spare and chillingly stark narrative of murder: Point. Shoot. Deposit. The End.
Maybe I was looking at the inspired copy of a talented PR person working for the Red Cross pro bono, hoping to raise awareness of violence in Oakland, especially within the perfect cross-section of our population who daily pass through this intersection (or wait at its interminable lights) which connects wealthy Rockridge, middle-class hip Temescal, busy Piedmont Avenue and the eleven blocks of Broadway between 40th and 51st where anything can happen.
I found it curious that the creator of an ad campaign so bold had nevertheless made the politically correct decision to portray his killers as possibly-white people, one a woman. Especially since most of the violence in Oakland is committed by men, mostly young, African-American men, and since by far it is African Americans who suffer the most from our violent tendencies. I thought the creator might have concluded that an ad about violence featuring African Americans would be ignored by whites.
Still, I loved the audacious choice to have her look delighted with their murderous deposit. I liked her certitude, which, combined with his quizzical amorality, made them remind of the MacBeths a little.
It all seemed brilliant to me, certain to gain attention, certain to create the kind of controversy that might lead to free publicity for the blood bank, and that might spark a productive conversation, city-wide, cross-race, cross-class, about our troubles, about the twenty people shot and the eight young people already dead here in the first month of January 2011.
The ad’s positioning, along a path walked by at least a hundred students from Oakland Tech every school day, promised a good deal of buzz.
But, on closer inspection, I was wrong. It was just an uninspired ad about depositing checks — from home or work or the bus or the toilet or whatever — by sending the bank a picture you’ve taken with your phone. That accomplished, perhaps the imaginary young couple in the ad ordered in. Neither of them felt like cooking that night. Likely, the models depicting them have gone on to portray other imaginary, non-homicidal people, some happy and well-adjusted, some sagging and crazed. Meanwhile, the ad’s creator toils away on new and creative efforts to attract customers to the bank, having gotten high marks for using a gun metaphor to push a high-tech way to deposit checks.
For some reason, sitting in my idling car that day, staring at that sign, the narrative progression of Point Shoot Deposit made me think of other things.
Oakland resident Jim O’Brien is the author of the blog Ice City Almanac, which covers the human cost of violent crimes in Oakland, and the work of those who help survivors and the city heal. He has written on a wide variety of topics for GQ Magazine, including politics, religion, food, music and health. Locally, his work appears often in San Francisco Magazine and Diablo Magazine.
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“For some reason, sitting in my idling car that day, staring at that sign, the narrative progression of Point Shoot Deposit made me think of other things.”
Me, too. Particularly in light of the recent murders in Arizona.
I thought maybe an ad for a sperm bank.