Does JWT’s new HSBC Advance campaign bridge the gap between big company image and reality?

We hesitate to make predictions – although that doesn’t stop us – but one certainty is that 2015 will see yet more ads from the world’s biggest companies telling us in gory emotional detail how and why (occasionally) they have our best interests at heart.

Everyone wants happy customers, of course, and more of them. It would just help if the behaviour of some of these companies matched their Sunday School-style stated ambitions.

I wonder, for example, if the UK’s Network Rail, the Government-owned body charged with running the railways, had been planning a corporate campaign some time in 2015, telling us all how well it was doing. Back to the drawing board with that one chaps, as it left thousands of passengers stranded over the Christmas holiday because of that hardy perennial ‘overrunning engineering works.’

The most influential campaign of recent years has undoubtedly been Ogilvy’s ‘Real Beauty’ series for Unilever’s Dove, in which Dove purports to be a beauty brand for ‘real’ women (and, increasingly, men) as opposed to the Photoshopped actresses and models who adorn L’Oreal ads. It obviously works for Unilever anyway as the company seems to be busily divesting itself of everything that isn’t Dove.

Banks have been trying to mine this seam for a few years now, unavailingly mostly, as the world’s media cheerfully retail a never-ending succession of stories about their many and varied iniquities. Now HSBC, which has steered clear of most, although not all, of the banking scandals (a big global bank is almost bound to have some very dodgy big customers) is having a go with a global campaign for its new Advance account, ‘The Pink Ladies,’ from JWT London.

And a touching, if rather implausible, tale it is.

Will it work? Depends on the Advance account. Is it really a better deal or the same old stuff with a new coat of lipstick? With a few exceptions – like Santander’s 123 account in the UK which pays interests and offers cash back – bank ‘advances’ tend not be advances at all. Their treatment, in the UK anyway, of any savers apart from new savers is nothing short of scandalous.

Advertising always has to deal with the distance between image and reality, of course. But it becomes more of an issue when you’re telling the world how good you are.

JWT has made a pretty good fist of it here though.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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