11th August 2015

The GAY-TM: How to make a splash with cash dispensers

As Joe Deville noted in his infrastructures of money piece on this website, we know little about the ‘mundane and subterranean’ aspects of payment systems. We only tend to think of them, he suggests, in times of crisis or when they fail. Monetary rails are the bedrock of payment systems and in retail markets they include automated teller machines (ATM), point of sale terminals, reloading points for transport cards, etc. These devises are also important interfaces because they are the materialization of digital financial markets. Although they typically get lost in the background noise of everyday life.

As some Charisma readers might know, I have been documenting the history of the ATM for some time now. Eyes usually glaze over when I tell people about my research interest. Yet after I explain why I think they’re relevant, many people can easily recall personal anecdotes in which an ATM plays a central role: a chance encounter with a long-lost friend while waiting in a queue, or the fear of being robbed in an unfamiliar location, or the feeling of seeing an insufficient funds notice displayed on the screen. When talking to manufacturers, banks or bank regulators their narrative is often negative, dwelling on issues about security, the cost of moving cash around, whether to outsource the management of the ATM network, or they inquire about my views regarding future of cash (and hence the longevity of the ATM as a cash dispensing technology).


You can then begin to understand why I was uber-pleasantly surprised when listening to Peter Tilton (Head of Digital Banking, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ)) deliver a presentation about their experience with the GAY-TM at this year’s European ATM Industry Association in London. My first reaction (which judging by the faces of the people around me, seemed to be shared) was one of incredulity and suspicion. Yet turns out that ANZ Bank has embraced a policy of inclusiveness which has been extended to supporting the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. As part of these celebrations, they launched what has been termed ‘the most effective ATM campaign in history’. I’m not sure about that but they certainly were effective in transforming grey, background, infrastructural ‘noise’ into a colourful celebration of inclusion.

Tilton did not explain how the original idea had come about. But much is to be said for ANZ as an organization to support and empower staff to deliver the GAY-TM innovation. As many other successes, GAY-TM was simple in its execution. The picture below shows the GAY-TM chiefly involved changing the colour and texture of the ATM fascias along the Mardi Gras route (as the video at the bottom shows, it also consider including colourful withdrawal receipts, welcome screens and creating the Anzabella Darling character).

GAYTM Facia Details. WTBWAGroup Melbourn. CC (2014)

GAY-TM Facia Details. WTBWAGroup Melbourn. CC (2014)

A quick image search in Google or Twitter will show you that the idea was a huge marketing success with a large number of people who posed next to them (whether dressed in drag or more conventionally). According to Tilton the GAY-TM marketing campaign was picked up by the global media and generated some 65 million impressions (three times the population of Australia). In June 2014, ANZ was also awarded the Canne Golden Lion Gran Pix.

GAYTM Facia Details. WTBWAGroup Melbourn. CC (2014) GAYTM Facia Details. WTBWAGroup Melbourn. CC (2014)

GAY-TM Facia Details. WTBWAGroup Melbourn. CC (2014)

The GAY-TM touched on an untapped potential to effectively reconceptualise the ‘mundane and subterranean’ as an opportunity for creating a visual and tactile splash. But for all of its achievements, and as can be seen in the picture below, it could not escape vandals expressing their homophobia.

Vandalised GAYTM. Source: ANZ Media CC (2014)

Vandalised GAY-TM. Source: ANZ Media CC (2014)

In summary, had the GAY-TM campaign gone wrong, the bank would have lost more in terms of reputation and branding than the cost of design and implementation. The significance of the GAY-TM is thus at a conceptual level. There are at least two reasons to support this view. First, the GAY-TM campaign literally required ‘thinking outside the (Cash) Box‘. Second it showed the bank being sincere with its inclusiveness policy. This does speak highly of ANZ in allowing the space for innovation to flourish and for (conservative and risk averse?) senior managers to support its execution.

By making (very) visible the material point of contact between people and digital markets, the GAY-TM also helps us to reflect on how grey, subterranean, and mundane the rails and its interfaces really are, for both scholars and industry participants — how lost they usually are in the background of everyday life. One is left to wonder if the huge success of this campaign could be duplicated in other places or using other interfaces and at relatively low cost. This is certainly food for thought with the 50th anniversary of the first cash dispenser looming, in the summer of 2017. If nothing else, the GAY-TM challenges industry participants (and scholars) to recast monetary interfaces in a positive light. It also brings to the forefront how to deal with the overly masculine, white, middle class and heterosexual marketing of financial services.


Cover image by Anzabella Darling, used with the permission of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited. All rights reserved.