NEW YORK ( MainStreet) - These days the revolution comes at a pretty hefty interest rate.
Last week Virgin Money, a financial services brand of Virgin Group Ltd., announced that some of the most iconic punk-rock album artwork in history will grace the front of its credit cards, courtesy of the Sex Pistols. Three different cards will roll out, two featuring the yellow and black cover art from “Never Mind the Bollocks” and one Union Jacked “Anarchy in the U.K.”
In perhaps the most un-self-aware bit of marketing in history, a statement from Virgin Money called the partnership a chance for “for consumers to put a little bit of rebellion in their pocket.”
All three cards have the Sex Pistols’ band name prominently displayed across the front along with their anarchic slogans. As consumers can consider the “sociopolitical aridity,” “jet set corruption” and “utter betrayal of the communal faith” under attack in Never Mind the Bollocks, they can also be comforted by the reminder that for everything else there’s MasterCard. Although Virgin has taken pains (sorry, applied “advanced technology”) to scrub all other information from the front of each card to make better room for the Sex Pistols, MasterCard’s logo remains prominent in the corner.
Virgin Money is an offshoot of Virgin Records, Johnny Rotten's label all the way back in the day. The card seem to have been announced in honor of the band’s 38th anniversary with the company, an anniversary choice so odd that it would be noteworthy if it weren’t for everything else about this particular partnership.
So this is what punk has come to.
Vanity cards are nothing new in the financial landscape, yet there’s something rather tired about this hijacking of the revolution. In an era where Ozzy Osborne has his own reality show, who’s left to shock?
Virgin Founder Richard Branson can brag all he wants about partying with the Sex Pistols on a boat in front of Parliament, which he does at length in a promo video for the new line of credit cards. “[W]e are still being asked to censor the word bollocks in our advertising,” Branson said in the official announcement trying to corporatize some edge.
To call this a challenge to “convention and the established ways of thinking,” as Director of Cards Michele Greene did in a statement, seems ludicrous. This is a credit card. It will lend you money and charge about 20 cents on the dollar for doing so. A little bit of cover art doesn’t change that.