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Why HSBC used puppetry in financial abuse billboards


By Awards Analyst, writer

December 6, 2022 | 4 min read

Wunderman Thomson and HSBC won at The Drum Awards for Out of Home 2022 in the Experiential/Ambient/Installation category to unveil the very real danger of financial coercion with a puppet-string billboard.

'When an abuser controls your finances, they control you' HSBC campaign

Why HSBC used puppetry in financial abuse billboards

The brief

In early 2022, HSBC uncovered research that revealed economic abuse is experienced in 95% of domestically abusive relationships, yet 69% of people don’t see the two concepts as related. HSBC UK’s Safe Spaces out-of-home campaign sought to ensure more people knew about this.

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The idea

To truly reappraise the way the British public saw domestic abuse, HSBC UK needed a powerful campaign idea that dramatized the invisible enemy of economic abuse and gave victims a safe space to regain their financial independence.

Its ‘puppet strings’ metaphor sat behind the powerful ‘95%’ statistic, resulting in an OOH campaign that delivered pioneering impact in the UK through a range of innovative, memorable executions. The results were inspiring; conversations gathered pace on social media, victims spoke up for themselves and many were shocked to learn about this secret evil. Furthermore, the campaign started a conversation within the wider culture, setting an example within the financial services category. News outlets started discussing the topic and competitors began working in the same space, revealing how our campaign not only raised vital awareness but unified the financial services category in the fight against a problem that sits intrinsically close to its products.

As a bank previously weighed down by perceptions of ‘too big to care’, community involvement and local support were key objectives for 2022 if HSBC UK were to dissipate these ‘corporate juggernaut’ perceptions held by many UK consumers. Resultantly, HSBC UK’s CSR approach to 2022 was to be firmly rooted in aiding two vulnerable consumer subsets, namely the homeless and those suffering from domestic abuse, both of whom are united by the same problem: the struggle to achieve and maintain financial independence.

The campaign was applauded by those facing the situation the campaign so accurately portrays.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Out of Home 2022. You can see all the winners here. The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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