How An Artwork Started A Bank War


It’s been a fierce and funny battle this weekend as some Nigerian banks took time off financial papers to trade insults and exchange banters over a tweet that spilled the beans.

Sterling Bank, popularly known as one-customer bank, created a buzz with an artwork closely accompanied by a savagery tweet that subtly smeared the image of a few banks within the country.

As at the time of this writing, Sterling Bank ranked top on Nigeria Twitter trend with over 44,000 mentions. And the hash tag “Bankwars” has become #1 since Sterling pulled off what would be remembered as one of the most creative corporate banters of all time. Yes, call it a sterling performance by Sterling.

It all started with a tweet of an artwork whose content speaks volumes of customers’ banking reality in Nigeria. The design touched a nerve and went viral within twenty hours. And as expected, all the banks subtly subbed came all out to fight dirty just to salvage what was left of their reputation.

Some advertising practitioners opined that the tweet was not only unnecessary, but also unethical. Some Ad professionals on Twitter felt it was a desperate attempt to get attention and advised Sterling to take down the tweet .

Of course the artwork slightly threw shades at some banks but hit the nail on the head. It’s basically the customers’ experiences summed up in one piece of art. Some customers have even assumed the responses of their banks and are eager to hear them deny the allegations.

Interpretation of the artwork

Now permit me to quickly explain my understanding of the artwork and what I think the designer aims to get across.

First is an image of an athlete holding a bow, and arrows bearing access symbol are seen going downwards. The athlete is also running backwards.

Now, Access Bank is a major sponsor of Lagos City Marathon which takes place in Lagos, annually. Sterling is probably telling whoever cares to know that Access Bank is more focused on marathon than sprint. So when it comes to getting bank facilities, it’s an unending race in circles. And at the end of the day, it’s always ‘Access Denied’.

The second image shows an imprisoned customer peeping through the window of Guaranty Trust Bank logo. This one is insanely ridiculous. Everyone who banks with GTB knows about their indiscriminate charges. This image portrays how customers have been severely and incessantly punished through senseless charges by the bank. And even when customers complain, they get charged and caged within the illusion of a strong brand while looking only through the logo.

The next bank attacked in the artwork was First Bank. The artwork shows a tired elephant (First Bank’s logo) that could barely walk probably due to old age. I must remind you that First Bank is the oldest bank in Nigeria and that makes the savagery a first class. This tells people that the bank have terribly slow operations that lead nowhere, and continuous ride on the back of such elephant would end in futility with the rider sliding backwards.

Lastly, Union bank was also unceremoniously called to the party. The artwork shows the image of a stallion (Union Bank’s logo) that keeps trudging the roads with little or nothing to offer.

All these happened on the ground while Sterling took to the sky in a rocket going towards the moon, which is actually the Bank’s logo.

It’s damn creative and arrogant!

Interesting Responses and PR Stunts

All the banks affected have been responding with clapbacks except GTB. Some are creative; others are not so creative, but Access Bank take the cake for launching a clapback the wrecked Sterling’s rocket.

In response to the tweet, Access described Sterling Bank as a one-customer microfinance bank that is not worthy of ridiculing a brand that has over ten million customers.

As for GTBank, silence makes no mistakes. Perhaps they have a creed which says ‘silence is golden’. But in corporate fights like this, there’s no bad publicity. Here is a criminal allegation leveled against you by Sterling, the best you can do is clear your name with equally creative response — one that restores the confidence of customers. They deserve it because the reputation of the brand is on the table and guess what, Sterling will shake it one more time if nothing is done to denounce and change the impression.

First Bank actually think they deserve respect as an elder in the Nigerian banking industry. But if an elephant is too old to take a leap that gets customers to a desired financial destination, why not use a horse or bird? There are many swift animals that can come to the rescue.

But then, First Bank responded as expected; like a fragile Nigerian elder who depends only on past glory and harasses young, vibrant and ambitious youths with old age. So First Bank responded with hashtags like #RespectYourElder, #ShoMoAgeMiNi. I couldn’t have expected anything more creative. Poor PR.

Union Bank also responded to the mockery tweet by Sterling. But Union is probably more concerned about unity as they bid Sterling farewell on their crazy quest to reach for the moon without a spacesuit.


The artwork is rich and immensely creative. Thanks to the copywriter too. I may not be in a position to state what is ethical or not within the banking industry, but you see, the art is packed with loads of stories that succinctly capture our experiences with these banks. It represents the truth, even if not all of it. And the tweet went viral because, to an extent, it resonated with the target.

For me, the artwork achieved its purpose. You can’t but admire the thoughts and creativity of the genius who designed it.

It is a wake up call for the banking sector. And with this, I think Sterling is ready to take over the world of banking. But first, are you pondering what I’m pondering?

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10 thoughts on “How An Artwork Started A Bank War”

  1. Aderiye Taiwo Samuel

    The ad got Mr glue to my phone all weekend. Nice one for Sterling. Gtb won’t reply because all atrocities levy against them are true

  2. Great one Yemi. I was really pondering on that artwork of recent to understand it better and why it caused the bankwars. But your explantion has made it more clearer for me. I’ve even started thinking of banking with Sterling Bank to escape the prison of GTB.

    Thanks bro.

  3. Ahmed Adewale

    artwork? genius! reality? sterling sucks! best believe I am a customer talking from experience walahi, their e-platforms are nothing to write home about, talking about a brand that’s headed for the moon in a spaceship? to whom much is given, much is expected…

    1. Ahmed, as a customer, I think you have the right to speak of your experiences with Sterling. And like you rightly said, more is expected from them. I do not have an account with the bank so I wouldn’t know about their service delivery, but It’s ironic to think one who throws shades at other banks does not deliver on its promises. It’s just hypocrisy.

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