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Does HSBC's 40-Year Journey "Lift" You Up?

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For anyone who’s getting nostalgic already for the end of Mad Men, HSBC’s new ad spot is here to fill the void. Kind of. Era driven set pieces somehow can’t help but be reminiscent of Don Draper and the gang, especially as their attention to detail in creating that world was so very perfect. So it’s a huge compliment to Grey London that their detailing spot on enough to elicit the comparison.

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The advert begins with Yann Tiersen’s “Comptine d`un autre ete - l`apres-midi” playing out, as a new business is set up. Enter the lift, and a whole host of scenarios play out. From the first hires, to office romances blossoming, family developing, arguments happening, foreign deals closing and beards growing. Spanning 40 years of a life, from start-up to multinational corporation, the onus isn’t on the numbers but on the people. The level of effort that has gone into creating this miniature world in a lift is astonishing. Everything from prosthetics (aging their actor through the 40 year period) to costume, props and hairstyles is meticulously thought out, bringing to life not only the brand voice and message but also a montage quick-fire references. Spot them if you can.
 


As part of HSBC’s “It’s Never Just Business” campaign, which launched last year, the ad will air globally on TV and in-flight media. Written by Jamie Starbuck and Theo Bayani, directed by Gary Freedman through The Glue Society and with Miguel Gonzales on art direction, the team have created something extremely evocative. Sentimentality might have infiltrated the ad market on some levels (oh hey, John Lewis), but what is refreshing to see here is the moments focused on are both good, and bad.

“The film is really a metaphor for the journey of a business and the people that run it. It takes us through time, and you get to see and feel events in the lifecycle of a business. Yes, it’s a lift journey but it’s the most extraordinary lift journey in the world”, says Nick Rowland, Creative Director at Grey London.      

Gary Freedman of The Glue Society adds: “This is about the journey of a business but at its core, it is a human story and very much centred around a main character, covering all the emotional ups and downs of his life.  Telling such an expansive story within the confines of a lift was a very interesting challenge, but that restriction allowed us to really develop creative, often unexpected, ideas.”  

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Overall, the emotional tug is an interesting one (and not without precedenct with HSBC, remember the Pink Ladies?). There’s an argument to be made that sentimentality in advertising is a cheap trick, a rush of emotions that moves been manipulative and patronising. But perhaps this offering manages to overcome these pitfalls by creating a mini-narrative that’s stylish and simple. Do you think it works?

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