HSBC Wunderman Thompson Borders

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HSBC Captures The Nation's Mood Around Borders Blocking Opportunity

HSBC UK chief marketing officer, Becky Moffat, and Wunderman Thompson creative director, Mike Watson - on the making of the ad

By Sonoo Singh

It has been another year of unexpected turns, and there's a prevailing sense that we all want to look to a better future as a way to move on and begin to live our lives again. A mood that is echoed in the latest HSBC UK campaign - about opening up a world of opportunity - by Wunderman Thompson.

And marks the return of the much-loved British comedian Richard Ayoade, in his trademark brown corduroy suit.

"It was like creating a second [successful] album," says HSBC UK chief marketing officer, Becky Moffat - who's been in this role since January this year. She previously held the role of global head of wealth and personal banking customer marketing for the HSBC Group.

"The bank's role is to help our customers navigate the new different we are all experiencing. What we wanted was to build on what we've achieved with 'We Are Not An Island'- brand consideration and brand power- but do it differently, and in a way that resonates both with our audience and our purpose," adds Becky.

The 'We Are Not An Island' idea in 2017 was intended to almost retell the story of the 165-year old bank to an audience that felt that HSBC was either for the wealthy or was too global a brand.

"The timing of 'We Are Not An Island' was perfect for the storm [Brexit] that the country was in at the time. It was also the time that HSBC was seen as the bank for wealthy foreigners. But remember it's a Chinese bank, founded by a Scotsman. So how do we tell that story, and how do we connect to the UK consumers?", explains Wunderman Thompson creative director, Mike Watson.

Mike calls the new campaign, which explores some of the physical, attitudinal, and cultural borders to opportunity that exist within our society, as the "first track to the second album" with more to come on the heels of this ad.

The film sees the British comedian first appear with a white line marker, before going off the pitch and dividing the spectators, highlighting one of the biggest barriers to opportunity, the racial divide.

He then walks across the glass ceiling of a large business building calling out gender inequality, through the living room of a family who aren’t listening to each other, through a freshly painted ‘No Entry’ road marking, and across the stage at a conference, before ending up at a busy port.

Richard delivers his final message at ‘Lands Edge’ : “But in the end, they tend to get in the way of possibility… because, when we see beyond borders, we see opportunity everywhere.”

The Creative Brief

The brief for Wunderman Thompson, says Becky, was to demonstrate how HSBC can open up a world of opportunity, while making sure that the message is relevant to the UK market. "Always a big challenge for us being a global brand," she says.

Enter Richard Ayoade, again.

"He's a character that works really well, so why change that?" says Mike.

For Becky, the British comedian embodies the "HSBC UK progressive outlook - London-born, Cambridge-educated, Norwegian mother, and Nigerian dad; a true global citizen.

But did HSBC or Wunderman Thompson need to 'soften' the creative brief after causing a stir with the 'We are not an island’ campaign with many commentators having decided that the ad was firmly about Brexit and deserved a debate.

"It wasn't about picking sides," Mike clarifies. "The point of the whole campaign was that it's impossible for the UK, to detach itself from the world. Now, if you think that's possible, then hand back your Colombian coffees and all of the things that we get from around the world. The bank's been trading internationally for 155 years and connecting the world, and that was what we were saying."

Becky adds that nothing that HSBC has ever done has been around a political perspective. Instead, the brand's advertising message is all about trying to be relevant to the UK citizens, as well as being timeless and of the moment.

The last few years has seen the brand reference everything from global uncertainty and consumer pessimism to the tough times affecting the UK high street in its advertising. The new campaign is about being even "more punchy", adds Mike.

For Becky, it's also about grounding it in customer insight and making it relevant. "If people don't feel connected to you, and don't feel that you are for them, the question that we can start with is- who are we for and where do they want us? That helps me right at the heart of what we're doing, from how we design propositions to how we create products, to how we greet customers, to how we show up whether it is digital displays on Piccadilly Circus or on a film on the telly.

"So we just wanted to highlight the fact that there are barriers, and that we believe that we can and should play an active role in helping people seek opportunity."

A sentiment captured beautifully by the campaign.

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