HSBC's 'We Are Not an Island' ads return with pro-immigration message

Despite the scrutiny on social media, the initial campaign was positively welcomed by many

HSBC has unveiled the latest phase of its successful, but controversial, 'We Are Not An Island' campaign, which — despite the denials from the bank — was accused in 2019 of taking an "anti-Brexit" stance.

The marketing blitz, designed to champion the UK's internationalism, has split opinion since its initial launch one year ago.

Now, HSBC is pushing the positioning further with posters and TV spots championing the idea that everyone has the right to feel at home in Britain, regardless of their background.

The hero spot at the heart of the 'Home to So Much More' campaign sees the return of comedian Richard Ayoade as frontman. In the ad, he ponders the question: "Where are you from?” before observing grainy 1970s footage of a new-born baby and family in an English hospital setting. Viewers then see a very different birth scene captured in black and white in 1950s India.

Ayoade then answers his original question with another set of questions: “Is it where you were born? Or where your parents were born?”. The narrative challenges the viewer to consider the same question back through an infinite number of great, great, great grandparents to the point the comedian loses count.

Poster executions present a pro-immigration stance from the bank, asking a similar question, and concluding: 'Tricky one. Perhaps, a better question is not where are you from, but where do you feel at home?'

The bank's chief marketing officer, Chris Pitt, told The Drum last October that the broader brand positioning wasn't intended as a commentary on Brexit, but was instead designed to cement the advertiser as one that was "culturally relevant".

At the time, he explained how the launch, created by Wunderman Thompson, had paved the way for a bolder approach to marketing from the traditionally cautious brand.

“The brief for the next campaign is to get me sacked,” he added, saying the January campaign wouldn't be "controversial for controversy’s sake," but instead stand for a point of view relative to the company's "really strong values."

“Put it this way – the task again is to be culturally relevant. To talk about being open and connected and do it in a way that has a strong point of view around something that matters to Britain," added Pitt.

Despite the scrutiny on social media, the initial campaign was positively welcomed by many, and HSBC saw its number of trades go up about 30% on the back of it.

Speaking on the latest initiative, which will run across press, OOH, social and TV, Pitt explained: “In our new campaign, we build on our brand values of being open and connected and consider the question of belonging and what it means to call the UK home.

"Our answers celebrate the rich diversity that makes the UK what it is today.”

Press activity will include cover wraps on the Metro and Evening Standard in the first week of January as well as ads in key national newspapers.

Out of home activity includes 48 sheets across the UK including train station locations; digital out of home including the Piccadilly Lights, the Birmingham Eye, the Liverpool Media Wall and other high-profile locations as well as six sheets nationally.

All of these formats echo the questions posed by Richard in the TV spot and feature the HSBC's trademark red hexagon.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.