Sean Penn Short or Corporate Commercial

7 04 2009


From Sterling Lentz:

What can a large global bank interested in reaping the profits of capitalism learn from treehuggers risking jail to save old growths? Understanding, apparently. Produced by the JWT agency, HSBC’s spot follows a group of social activists through their resistance and arrest, then a couple as they are jailed and later released, all to the gentle indie croons of the ever-esoteric Joanna Newsom. The ad is poetic, poignant, and beautiful; but as a selling device, it fails terribly. The ideologies of the average liberal social activist and those of a large financial institution are diametrically opposed.  So when HSBC says it understands how people value things differently, the entire ad transforms itself from a possible set-up for a social call to action (preferably narrated by Robert Redford) into a patronizing ode teetering on the precipitous edge of being completely tone-deaf. Perhaps their next spot will be a commercial chronicling the life of Robert Mugabe and ending with the same tagline. The selling-by-storytelling technique (I just made that up) is no doubt a powerful tool, but JWT should have been more careful with its application here. And can someone tell me who the target audience would be?

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