When advertising gets in the way of a good ad

6 May

This is not Slam HSBC Month here on the Copeland blog. But Andrea’s post got me hunting around for more ads by the bank and I found a beauty.

“Lumberjack” is as beautifully done as TV ads get. The music, the daring stunts, the priceless bear at 37 seconds…all showcase filmmaking at its best.

The problem is, it’s not a film. It’s HSBC hocking their wares. You almost feel betrayed by the bank sliding in there to deliver the heavy-handed sales message at the end of spot.

All of a sudden we are jolted out of the sweet closing vignette by a discussion about customers. What customers? Oh, I get it. They are selling me something. Get the strategic sales message in there. It’s a shame because the spot was doing HSBC a world of good until then.

As a viewer, I just wish they had had enough restraint to simply place a quiet super at the end that said: HSBC, valuing our differences.

How did you feel about the ending?


15 Responses to “When advertising gets in the way of a good ad”

  1. Mario Parise May 6, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    They do screw up the ending, I agree. A more subtle/quiet approach would have been better.

    Still a great spot though.

    I think it’s just the jarring way they did it. You’re sucked into this moving story, and then it actually feels like the marketing people stepped in at the end. Sort of like having a beautiful painting by DiVinci with a big box in the lower right corner saying “this work of art was brought to you by HSBC.”

    It’s just a question of tact.

  2. Petra Franke May 6, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    The commercial actually made me tear up.

  3. dougbrowncreative May 6, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    > Mario I’m with you. It seems as though the marketing department tapped the agency on the shoulder with an “Ahem” and a strong recommendation that all the money they were spending be focused on a sales message.

    > Petra, I cried like a baby too.

  4. barry hill, copywriter May 6, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    No matter how subtle the reference, methinks I must agree with your darkest comments above… they’ve burned they’re bridges

  5. barry hill, copywriter May 6, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    btw, who is the soundtrack of?

  6. Paradise Promotions May 6, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    as a consumer, I watched the video and thought it would be a good video start for a National Film Board of Canada film, but didn’t really ‘get the message’. IMO, not the greatest marketing idea. There have been a few commercials on the air in the last year that I’ve watched and wondered what they’re about and why. I don’t think it’s a great way to market HSBC – it doesn’t reach out to the population and doesn’t make me want to switch banks. As corny as they are, the Coast Capital commercials stick in the mind and are entertaining and bring a slight smirk to the face but not this one.

  7. Amy May 6, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Wait. What?
    It’s like someone made this beautiful short film and the bank bought it, threw it at their marketing people and said “find some way to use this as an ad.” The connection between their “slogan” and the imagery in the ad is tenuous at best. Not to mention that it’s just manipulative.

  8. andmerson May 6, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I don’t think the last line kills the ad but it definitely does damage.

    To me, it’s ok to use the word ‘customers’. I don’t mind knowing from a marketing angle that it’s “their people” who get the good treatment. But, “So what we learn from one customer helps us better serve another…” is just too far removed. It closes the emotional flood gates that could have flowed on long after the ad closed.

    “We value our customers’ differences” would have worked on me.

    Barry the song is- Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie by Joanna Newsom.

  9. dougbrowncreative May 6, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    > Andrea mentions the soundtrack in her comment Barry. Sounds like some Brother Where Art Thou stuff though. Love it.

    > Well Paradise Promotions, I know from having worked on HSBC for many years that the ad supports their brand positioning. It’s more about creating a clear point of difference than driving new accounts. And no one commercial works in isolation from all the other elements that drive brand awareness. But I buy your point that the marketing hook is tenuous. Thanks for the comment.

    > There we go Amy, I knew I could count on you to throw the gloves off and have a go. Agreed on all fronts. Even if I know that the idea came from intensive strategic and creative development.

    > “The ending closes the emotional flood gates that could have flowed on long after the ad closed.” We need to hire this Andrea person!

  10. Kat May 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    “We recognize how people value things differently.”

    DONE, ENDED, NO MORE and it would have been fine.
    Also I’m really choked up now.

  11. dougbrowncreative May 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Oh I know Kathryn, we are all just balling our eyes out over here. Even the big guys and the tough girls.

  12. Terrance Lam May 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m not sure I agree… it’s easy for marketers and intellectuals to read as much as we do in these messages. However how does it fair in the focus or in the target groups that this is aimed at.

    It’s easy to say that it offends because of the strong message that it portrays and then to discover it’s a sales job.

    In the same light of my generation, we had telephone ads that painted the same type of emotional picture with calling your loved ones. The fact that in the 70’s the price of a LD phone call to a distant loved one was enough to pay for groceries for a day, they too made an effort to show that they [the telco] understand their consumers and their emotional needs. They aren’t in the business to judge, but in the business to understand their consumers. The message translates into a grassroots understanding that the customer is more than just a black and white profile, but even in a singular household environment, has complexities beyond a text book understanding.

    I think this add captures much of what they did in the 70’s with phone ads, and although the subtext seems a little too in your face, I actually did not feel that the ad looked like a trailer. In fact I felt it looked more like an oil PSA ad but to discover later it’s for a bank. I think, Rethink did a far worse job with Coast Capital than the agency that did for this ad.

  13. dougbrowncreative May 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I think the difference with the phone ads Terrance is that the advertiser was worked into the message in a relevant way. It’s about people missing each other and getting in touch. Classic problem/solution scenario. The HSBC ad is far more random and unconnected. It seems to piggyback on the spot rather than weave its way seamlessly into it.

    I appreciate your different point of view though. Just as HSBC Bank would! 😉

  14. Terrance Lam May 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    The “bail” payment was supposed to be the way to make it relevant, perhaps that’s where the ad fell short as it wasn’t woven into the whole message well enough. The transaction wasn’t communicated well enough so I would agree that’s where it fell short.


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