Incredible: The Bernie Ecclestone Hublot advert

InMarketing was always supposed to be my scrapbook, my repository of ideas and observations about all things marketing-related. I aimed to highlight examples of good marketing that I came across. Highlighting bad ones, I reasoned, would be all too easy and all too time-consuming to bother. But every now and again, something comes along that is so bad, so tasteless, so utterly ineffective that it deserves a mention. Last week, I chanced upon just such a thing: this genuinely incredible (and I mean that literally, not in praise) ad from Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Hublot.

You’ll doubtless know the back story to this by now. F1 boss Ecclestone was mugged in London at the end of November. The thieves took jewellery and Ecclestone’s watch. They also beat him rather savagely. Despicable.

What you may not know is that Ecclestone subsequently sent an email to his friend Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO, with a photo of himself in attachment and the line “See what people will do for a Hublot.” Biver, never a man to miss a marketing opportunity, thought he’d spotted another one and asked Ecclestone for his permission to use the image in an ad.

The result is above and it’s wrong on so many levels I can barely count them.

Here’s the thing: advertising – particularly in the luxury brand space – is all about aspiration. It’s very, very simple actually: you’re trying to create in the mind of the reader an association between your product and the lifestyle you are depicting in the ad. The message of every ad is fundamentally the same: buy this product and you will feel like this. That’s why this is a terrible piece of advertising. Put the violence and the unpleasant injuries to one side just for a moment: you still have Ecclestone, not a man I – or many others – would aspire to be like. Now add the injuries and the violence and there really is no way that I want any part of what is being depicted. I don’t want to be an 80 year-old, ugly man. I don’t want to be mugged. And I don’t want to be beaten, thanks very much. In short, it’s certainly not going to make me want to buy the watch. So, it fails spectacularly as an ad.

Now, I know that Biver and Hublot have stated that this is not an ad, that it is in fact part of a campaign to eliminate violence and racism from our society. Those are lofty goals that we can all get behind. But if that’s the intent, if you’re trying to fight racism and violence, then here’s a little piece of advice for you Hublot: take your product, take the damn watch, out of the creative! And while you’re at it, you might want to think about cobbling a few more sentences together to tell your readers more about the actual cause you’re trying to support and what tangible steps they can take to help.

So, as it stands, this piece is one of two things: a grotesque advert that actually achieves the complete opposite of what ads should (it puts people off the idea of buying the product); or a hugely ineffective campaign against violence. Either way, someone in Hublot’s communications team should be hanging their head in shame over this.



2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Andrewthehat,

    Thank you, Andrew. I saw the ad and had a lot of trouble trying to figure out what I thought about it; you’ve put your finger on it.

    At the risk of doing what Hublot did (drawing attention away from their intended point), I’d only add one thing… it’s technically “Ecclestone”, not “Eccelstone”…

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