If I had to teach a classroom of teenagers the difference between marketing and advertising, I would probably show them this commercial for HSBC's online security tool, Secure Key, centred on a puzzle box.
This 30-second execution is the tip of an iceberg that has been forming for years in the dark, glacial waters of cybercrime. It is not 'patient zero' in a world-changing contagion of creativity; it isn't the start of a conversation or the scaffolding of an idea. It isn't the beginning of anything.
This ad is the end of something.
It is a simple, carefully timed and well-branded act of punctuation.
To HSBC customers, the majority of whom are already in possession of a Secure Key, it crystallises a well-orchestrated campaign of direct marketing.
To non-customers, perhaps wrestling with cumbersome first-generation products, it is just enough to prompt envy. And to all of us, troubled as we are at some subconscious level by the subtle menace of modern life, it is a glimpse into the wise psyche of the world's most reassuring bank. We watch it with the same absence of surprise as we might admire the final gloss coat on a well-prepared skirting board. Not because we like to watch paint dry, but because we know that in marketing, preparation is everything.
The execution is well-judged. This is not the moment for a full product demonstration because (a) the product is easy-to-use; (b) that's what YouTube is for; and (c) HSBC is selling peace of mind, not gadgetry.
A less formidable bank might have thought it necessary to sensationalise the problem, and a less literate client might have imposed the whole narrative tyranny of 'the world's local bank' on a message that couldn't bear it.
The money-box metaphor is as old as financial services, but here it is transposed to that timeless world of oriental otherness where grandfathers are kindly patriarchs, and what remains of our originality query is soothed by Chinese banjos.
Everything about this piece of work is appropriate. However, while I am grateful to be spared, say, an international comedy of errors in which one man's identity theft is another man's back-wax, the advertising practitioner in me needs to know what more could have been done; the respect that is earned by the absence of wrongness is not the same - and not as powerful - as the envy we feel in the presence of greatness.
One of the teenagers in my imaginary classroom has just put his hand up: 'If this ad is the tip of an iceberg, then why is it the least exciting bit?'
|Adwatch (September 7): Top 20 recall|
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/
The Gate Films/
The Red Brick
Bartle Bogle Hegarty/
|14=||(-)||BMW 1 Series||
Leo Burnett Italy,
CHI & Partners/