Backpack bomb hoax features in new CommBank Olympics promo

olympic backpack

The guard wrestles for the suspicious backpack

CommBank has moved into controversial territory with its latest online promotion featuring the bank’s mascots triggering a hoax terrorism alert.

Set outside the London Olympics volleyball on Pall Mall, it features that “C”, “A” and “N” characters tipping off a security guard that the person dressed as the letter “T” has a suspicious backpack which is “making ticking and whizzing sounds”.

The ad was uploaded onto CommBank’s YouTube channel last night. CommBank is an official Olympic sponsor.

One of the key targets for the London security operation are potential backpack bombers. On July 7, 2005, suicide bombers detonated backpack bombs killing 52 members of the public. The attack came the day after London was announced as the venue for the 2012 Olympics.

In the video, the CommBank mascots approach a security guard and report that T is “sweating profusely.”

The guard, presumably played by an actor, is then seen attempting to wrestle away the backpack.

The Can campaign is part of the new brand direction created for CommBank by M&C Saatchi which rolled out in May.

Mumbrella has invited CommBank to comment.

Terrorism hoaxes have been known to backfire. At Mumbrella360, radio presenter Brendan Jones discussed how he found himself in trouble after apparently making prank calls to the terrorism hotline. Like the CommBank ad, the call was fictional, and the person at the other end was an actor too.


  1. Justin
    2 Aug 12
    10:01 am

  2. I think you mean the letter T has the bomb, not letter N…

  3. Dena
    2 Aug 12
    10:02 am

  4. Um, can you please fix your story. It’s the letter T that C, A and N report to the security guard, not the letter N. Was very confusing on the first read as to why N would report itself…

  5. Colin Delaney
    2 Aug 12
    10:12 am

  6. Amended
    Colin – Mumbrella

  7. Graham
    2 Aug 12
    10:17 am


  9. Ron Burgundy
    2 Aug 12
    11:03 am

  10. Keep up the good work Colin.

  11. Lloyd
    2 Aug 12
    11:22 am

  12. This is just stupid on Comm Banks behalf. I suppose they have a similar ‘humorous’ video planned for the anniversary of September 11.

  13. Nick
    2 Aug 12
    11:35 am

  14. Wow…. this is seriously insensitive to the families of those who lost their lives on 7/7

  15. Tony Bee
    2 Aug 12
    11:59 am

  16. All of these “CANT” ads are appalling, just like the bank.

  17. Anonymous
    2 Aug 12
    11:59 am

  18. what if the letter U replaced the letter A and the four of them teamed up to screw australians out of their mortgage repayments…

  19. Roger H
    2 Aug 12
    12:05 pm

  20. Offensive and disgusting. Having been in London on that day I just CAN’T believe they have gone with this creative…

  21. anom
    2 Aug 12
    12:06 pm

  22. err ummm, can’t or the other offensive word that springs to mind. Seriously bad idea and shows no respect to people/families affected by the London bombings, how about next Bali/ 9/11…who the hell gets paid to come up with such ridiculous ideas! I want their job!!

  23. Rob
    2 Aug 12
    12:07 pm

  24. unbelievably obvious and extremely tasteless.

  25. Greg
    2 Aug 12
    12:08 pm

  26. Looking beyond the obvious sensitivity issues…I just don’t see the point. It’s not funny. It just doesn’t interest me.

    If you’re going to push the boundaries and be risky, shouldn’t it be with something that’s at least good? Otherwise it’s all risk for no reward.

  27. RR
    2 Aug 12
    12:09 pm

  28. Why does this campaign feel so half-baked?

  29. Bob
    2 Aug 12
    12:09 pm

  30. Time for mr lark to fall on his sword

  31. LuLuBrella
    2 Aug 12
    12:10 pm

  32. Just when you think these ads CANT get any worse, hmmm, I guess they sure CAN. Honestly, this campaign just gets worse and worse and it is definitely damaging their brand. I wouldnt open an account with these ‘tools’ if they paid me.

  33. Larry
    2 Aug 12
    12:13 pm

  34. Completely insensitive and unimaginative. What a ripper combination that is. Who the hell is signing this crap off?????

  35. Drew
    2 Aug 12
    12:15 pm

  36. Wow – how can such a crap idea with such huge PR risks associated with this ever be approved. Heads will roll. I’ll give this 60 minutes until its the lead story on

    Meanwhile – the James Magnusson Comm Bank ads are woeful – especially considering his poor form in the pool. Poking fun of our best athlete about potential poor performance when he is actually performing under his best is seriously questionable.

    Who is running this campaign?

  37. Neil Hume
    2 Aug 12
    12:15 pm

  38. I’m looking forward to their funny Bali Bombing ad. That will be sooo edgy and cool.

  39. Worst campaign 2012
    2 Aug 12
    12:17 pm

  40. What will be their next ‘bright spark’ moment be? Machine guns at a theatre? The ad agency responsible for this creative has seriously lost the plot, and CBA are the fools who continue to pay for this dreadful campaign. Talk about brand damage???? How long do you flog a dead horse?

  41. Peter
    2 Aug 12
    12:18 pm

  42. Seems strange that they moved so quickly from the earnest Toni Collette faux inspiring poetry to very quickly focusing on some funny looking guys dressed up as letters, and now on to Chaser style stunts. I’m confused about what they’re trying to do?

  43. chris
    2 Aug 12
    12:21 pm

  44. Fail.

  45. somecopydude
    2 Aug 12
    12:23 pm

  46. why were Justin and Deena so keen to get the clarity of the story right? Is it cause they’re both tin eared buffoons employed by the same mouthbreathers who thought a backpack bomb joke would be a funny ad for a bank?

  47. DAZ
    2 Aug 12
    12:23 pm

  48. This is offensive and not even funny. Would it be ok to do the same prank in Bali? How would the Aussie families who lost loved ones in the Bali bomb feel?

  49. Rosco
    2 Aug 12
    12:24 pm

  50. How does a bomb-hoax creative line up with Andy Lark’s supposed strategy …

    “Mr Lark told Mumbrella: “During our research, the message we got was that all through these life events the bank helps me move forward. We said how do we really stand for something in people’s lives and articulate our role in helping them move forward in life’s journey?”

    CAN is a nice idea but someone at M&C and CBA has lost sight of what they are trying to achieve if they think this is in anyway on-strategy.

    A disappointed CBA customer.

  51. Gold Member
    2 Aug 12
    12:25 pm

  52. Oh dear ! Who is approving this crap?
    I thought that the campaign might have evolved to show how a big bank might listen to its customers, and this campaign to communicate how it had listened and changed for the better. What was dumb just got much dumber !

    It just reaffirms to me that our banking oligopoly makes far too much easy money, and that people running these marketing campaigns can waste it so flagrantly.

    If banking was a category like most others where there were 100’s of options for the consumer, such waste would be unforgivable.

  53. Rebecca
    2 Aug 12
    12:25 pm

  54. Not sure what brand benefit this ad achieves for the CBA… pretty crooked corporate messaging if you ask me… and until now I have been quite a fan of the CAN campaign

  55. From the sidelines
    2 Aug 12
    12:27 pm

  56. A disgusting use of an extremely sensitive topic with no relevance to the banks offering unless it’s a reflection of how insensitive their staff will be to customers. It’s a half baked campaign and this is the worst iteration of it.

    Have agencies working on financial services been flogged to such an extent that they have to resort to cheap, ill thought out controversy accompanied by weak campaigns where they change the lettering of a word to diametrically change it’s meaning (Amex, CBA) It’s not clever thinking either creatively or strategically and it certainly doesn’t make me want me to change my banking habits and in this last execution is simply offensive.

  57. milo kerrigan
    2 Aug 12
    12:27 pm

  58. Management must be wankers to allow crap like this… it meant to be funny…or reflective on an insipid brand, starved for ideas.

  59. Emma
    2 Aug 12
    12:27 pm

  60. Tired, boring and insensitive.

  61. Trevor Trevorsen
    2 Aug 12
    12:33 pm

  62. I’ve watched that spot a few times, trying to discover what response it was attempting to elicit from the viewer. Still nothing: rather like an amoeba eating blancmange.

  63. Nicola Davey
    2 Aug 12
    12:33 pm

  64. As a combank customer this is enough to make me leave the bank. Focused on customer service hey? This demonstrates no empathy for people, a foundation for relationships and customer service.

    As a person working in comms, I think I’ve got a good sense of humour and applaud advertisers who take a risk, but to the com bank team – you are well off the mark. I would love to know what the insight was for this?

    Keep rocking it London.

  65. Cozza
    2 Aug 12
    12:46 pm

  66. Insensitive, immature and pathetic. What a bunch of c*nts.

  67. Andy
    2 Aug 12
    12:49 pm

  68. What complete idiots. Laughing at terrorism to sell a bank. Nice.

  69. Rupert
    2 Aug 12
    12:50 pm

  70. Stunned beyond belief…

    Colin, please follow up with CBA and/or M&C to get an explanation as to why they think this kind of material is appropriate.

  71. Good moron
    2 Aug 12
    12:58 pm

  72. Hopefully Andy Lark is firing them all right now.

    I like the way he has a beard just like a real bomber. Nice touch.

    Of course, if there is an actual bombing at the Olympics, like those on 7/7 the day after London’s win was announced this will become a true classic in monster f*** ups.

    Should make the press in the UK though – brilliant!

  73. Offensive
    2 Aug 12
    1:00 pm

  74. Totally offensive, tasteless crap!
    I hope they are going to apologise…

  75. Mick
    2 Aug 12
    1:11 pm

  76. Name one good CommBank ad you’ve seen on Telly in the past 60 yrs.
    go on then.
    You can’t.

    This one though is also tasteless and thoughtless.

  77. Jo
    2 Aug 12
    1:18 pm

  78. Doesn’t make me want to open a CommBank account

  79. milo kerrigan
    2 Aug 12
    1:19 pm

  80. Run for your Life whan you hear the Term “Moving Forward”……it means we have treated you as dopes till now….even better, “the Experience when Banking” will be next.

    All Wank Words meaning F/all!

  81. PA
    2 Aug 12
    1:24 pm

  82. I second the fail

  83. Venessa
    2 Aug 12
    1:26 pm

  84. Bad move… jokes about suicide bombers are never good taste…

  85. Anne
    2 Aug 12
    1:38 pm

  86. Those working on this campaign have obviously never lived in London and felt fear when travelling to and from home. The Commonwealth Bank should know better!

  87. nik
    2 Aug 12
    1:47 pm

  88. Looks like Jolly to London to me. hmm.

  89. Mauel
    2 Aug 12
    1:49 pm

  90. According to Michael Moore et al, everytime there’s a terrorist attack, banks profit from it.

  91. WTF
    2 Aug 12
    1:53 pm

  92. You just Can’t do that

  93. Kelly
    2 Aug 12
    1:58 pm

  94. Wow – a campaign that started off twee (that poem, ugh) has ended up downright disgraceful.

    There’s nothing remotely funny about a faux backpack terrorist at the Olympics, and I have no idea why CBA would want to be associated with that image.

    Especially not after the social media world has been laughing at their expense for the ‘T’ who seems to have nailed Maggy’s poor form well in advance of the Games.

    To use an overused cliche, epic fail.

  95. Londoner
    2 Aug 12
    2:00 pm

  96. Disgusting.

    I have a crap load of money stored with Commonwealth at the mo. I think I might pull it out based on this awful idea.

    I wonder if this horrible concept will get picked up by the UK press, or indeed the US press?

    Wait! I think I can hear the Channel 7 helicopter…

  97. Lloyd
    2 Aug 12
    2:00 pm

  98. 1. The agency are fcking hopeless to be serving this shite up as a ‘good idea’
    2. The client (including Mr Lark) are bloody morons for approving it.
    3. It’s like they feel like they need to get more value out of the big foam letters they paid money for…. it’s unbelievable. None of this campaign makes sense or works together – at all.

    It looks like Gruen just got their content for next weeks episode.

  99. John Grono
    2 Aug 12
    2:10 pm

  100. I want my monthly account fee refunded.

  101. Alan you Caaaaaarn't
    2 Aug 12
    2:55 pm

  102. A very worthwhile 6 mins.

  103. Anonymous
    2 Aug 12
    2:56 pm

  104. What idiot thought it was a good idea to play on the heart strings of a city previously terrorised by bombers.

  105. Shabbadu
    2 Aug 12
    3:00 pm

  106. I was living in London when the bus and tube bombs went off. This will go down like Satan farting in Westminster Abbey.

  107. John
    2 Aug 12
    3:12 pm

  108. You’re all taking yourselves way too seriously. It’s humor and our ability to not take ourselves to seriously that sets us Aussie’s apart and makes us so resilient.

    Clearly this is intended for humor and Comm Bank would never intend it to offend.
    You will be the people crying out next week that we live in a nanny state when the next politician calls for censorship of something.

    Relax and enjoy life! Smile. I for one am wrapped to see a bank take risks!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don’t mention the war – that’s exactly what terrorists want.

  109. Sad Baz
    2 Aug 12
    3:17 pm

  110. I think there’s an undercurrent of misunderstanding around mental health. This contrary and negative T is the constant butt of his supposed mates jokes. This poor loner should be embraced, not thrown in jail.

    If Commbank had a shred of decency they’d get T the help he clearly needs and thrash C, A an N with a leather belt in front of the rest of the alphabet.

  111. Steve
    2 Aug 12
    3:26 pm

  112. Having experienced the London bombings first hand, I find this ad to be in bad taste and not at all funny. Funny or not – I’m not sure it’s all that appropriate.

  113. Anonymous
    2 Aug 12
    3:44 pm

  114. @John

    You’re right.

    It’s part of a series – the next one features Gary Glitter and the one after has an exploding A380 in it.

    They’re hilarious. Can’t wait.

  115. Mrs Lark
    2 Aug 12
    3:58 pm

  116. It’s very hard to make everyone like a bank. And everyone on this post
    should know that all the people at the bank and M&C are working really hard
    on this campaign, and are trying their best, and that is what is most important.

  117. anon
    2 Aug 12
    4:11 pm

  118. Gee…anyone with half a brain can work out that they meant the letter T and not the letter N – go do some work.

  119. Curry House
    2 Aug 12
    4:28 pm

  120. @Mrs Lark
    – Either you are actually Mrs Lark. Or, you are avin a laugh innit!

    Anonymous comment 57:
    – Well done. I like your style guvnor!

    “Which Bank?”
    – I always thought of w@nk

    Now all I can think of when I see the CommBank brand is:
    – C*nt

    Why don’t Commbank (who lets face it, do not really need to plaster themselves all over traditional media considering they have ATM’s in every nook and cranny in Oz) place their efforts and cash ramping up their service and products. People will talk about the great new Commbank and be Commbank’s very own marketeers through social word of mouth. How about “use a commbank atm for free, whoever you bank with” (That would do it!!)

    I bought some pretty expensive goods this week online from a supplier I had never heard of before. Before purchasing, I got into some forums to ensure they were ok and user reviews were good about the supplier. The price point was pretty good, better than some but not all. Their service was fantastic and the user reviews on various independent sites raved about them. They got my business, the goods arrived in 2 days (I was told it would be min 3 days.) I will recommend them to others.

    Why should banking products and services be any different? I scratch my head as to why these large corporates aint getting it? Top heavy execs, like at Channel Nine perhaps?

    Less of the silly traditional marketing waste and spend on getting your house in order Commbank!!! Vodafone in Australia needs to do this also.

  121. anom
    2 Aug 12
    4:55 pm

  122. it’s very hard to make everyone like a bank – are you serious…ok how about…not charging stupid unnessecary fees or hold on, how about I can take my OWN money out of ANY ATM and not pay a charge for it, there’s 2 things that they could change immediately and that alone would improve PR for ANY bank….making Banks ‘liked’ never easy but with the right thinking and creative possible…oh OK they are working hard so that’s OK….I’ll ignore the extremly bad taste about my home City and laugh about it….REALLY!!?

  123. really?
    2 Aug 12
    5:39 pm

  124. If this is what M&C’s creative “talent” (and i am using enormous air quotes there) think is clever, on brand and passable as a campaign then CBA should be sacking them and the entire marketing team along with it.

    Massivley insensitive. Enourmously stupid and a giant waste of thier customers and shareholders money.

    Wake up CBA, your a bunch of C*NT’s

  125. Jay
    2 Aug 12
    5:52 pm

  126. If your going to make a joke about a bombing at the Olympics, in the City that faced one of it’s worst real bombings in it’s history, on the day the event was announced… Well not only are you doing something stupid and insensitive, but something that will require your joke to be at least good, if anyone is to defend it.

    This is just shit. They need to put the ‘T’ back.

    John thinks “You’re all taking yourselves way too seriously. It’s humor and our ability to not take ourselves to seriously that sets us Aussie’s apart and makes us so resilient”.

    How do you think this ad would play out if the ‘T’ was trying to get into a Bali Nightclub?

  127. David
    2 Aug 12
    8:35 pm

  128. I would listen to Mr T very seriously. He has been right about everything else in these ads.

  129. David
    2 Aug 12
    9:53 pm

  130. That’s just stupid. Really stupid.

  131. Pardon me
    3 Aug 12
    1:08 am

  132. @John – No one likes an F-squad damage control cheerleader, I will offer my professional services to you for free on this one – sit down and shut the fuck up (on behalf of every Australian that you just attempted to throw on CommBank/M&C’s HILARIOUS fire).

    @MrsLark – While I can appreciate the civil tone of your comment, I can’t appreciate the content.
    Are you human?
    At the end of the day THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is not money, it’s not a bank and it most certainly isn’t advertising. Fundamentally, the most important thing is to be good to your fellow man/woman, there are a whole lot of intricacies in the word “good” including, showing respect, consideration and compassion.
    CBA violated and exploited a tragedy, they should be ashamed and M&C… is there a soul in that vacuous cavern? Because there certainly isn’t any creative integrity.

    MrsLark, as someone who has many years of extensive experience spearheading ways to “make people like” brands that range from loveable through to less-than-loveable multi-billion $ corporations, let me tell you this…

    It is very hard to make most people like most things. That is the nature of the game.

    I am sure they are “working really hard”.
    So please, pass along the message that at this point, everyone (except for John, naturally he wants his check) just wants them to stop “working really hard”.
    Seriously, do CBA, the country and London a favour and just stop.

    Working really hard doesn’t mean you’re doing well or doing the right thing.
    It is a hard and cold reality.
    Stop and reevaluate because this ad demonstrated nothing but a complete disconnection from not only customers but human beings.

  133. thisisme
    3 Aug 12
    7:48 am

  134. stupid. offensive. insensitive. dangerous. to infinity + 1

  135. Mike
    3 Aug 12
    8:39 am

  136. Bunch of wankers if you ask me. They have a CAN advert but then when it comes to dropping mortgage rates they CAN”T. Get stuffed. Like to know what they have to say about that. Worst bank around. Like to see what they have to say for themselves. Save your advertising, cut the mortgage rates!

  137. Rachel
    3 Aug 12
    10:10 am

  138. I like it & the campaign a lot — a big step up from the disjointed Goodby work

  139. Curry House
    3 Aug 12
    10:13 am

  140. @ Pardon me

    Very nicely put. This is an example of the side of adland, which (as others have mentioned on here before) proves why ad execs are ranked second to bankers with regards to the good they do for society. Nurses and teachers are polar opposites (as you can imagine.)

    Times are certainly changing though. The power of the people via social networks is giving them an ultra loud voice.

    Could we see some start up banks revolutionising retail banking? (Just like smart retailers are showing the old mob how it is done in shopping?)

    I would ditch my bank for sure.

  141. Worst campaign 2012
    3 Aug 12
    2:43 pm

  142. @ Rachel, are you for real? I think you must be the only person in the country that actually likes this campaign…. It has gone from BAD to Worse…. and to make matters even worse, CBA refuse to listen to the masses when we are warning them about the brand damage it is actually doing. I have completely lost sight of what the CBA are actually trying to say, and I think they have too. I just cringe when I hear the CAN and CANT bullshit on TV now or see it in bus shelters…. It actually makes me feel sick! I would never be a customer with this bank now due to their stupity with their marketing dollars, I would hate to think what else my money as a shareholder was supporting???? Why dont you actually get real as a bank, and instead of wasting $$$ on very bad ‘brand damaging’ campaigns, ad execs ego’s and your own, why not make your bank the best bank ever by actually listening to your customers, abolishing some ridiculous fee’s and actually being a leader in this field??? Hey, it really isnt rocket science you dickheads.

  143. mark
    5 Aug 12
    3:56 pm

  144. I wonder if “T” was, is or ever will be a CBA customer.

  145. Sam
    6 Aug 12
    11:07 pm

  146. @ rachel #69..

    I assume you are either a CBA marketing person or from the agency. No-one else could say what you did.

  147. Barry Minster
    27 Aug 12
    4:23 pm

  148. Terrorism is NOT FUNNY