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Earlier this week, an incredible, almost unbelievable advertisement from Hublot exploded like a virtual bomb on the internet. Has JCB finally gone too far?

Although the advertisement has been highly visible on the web for the past few days, it has attracted little comment from the watch community –positive or negative. It’s almost as though both consumers and professionals of the watchmaking industry have been rendered speechless in the face of such brazen, code-breaking brand positioning.

Let us recap the facts for those who may not be familiar with the situation: Bernie Ecclestone, top boss of the F1 world, aged 81, had been severely assaulted two weeks ago during a home invasion by thieves looking for money. Judging by his injuries, our guess is that this elderly English statesman fought like a lion. In the end, his attackers left with his watch, a Hublot F1 King Power.

Already famous, this particular timepiece was about to become infamous, thanks to some rather questionable marketing decisions.

Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

We had the pleasure to talk to Mr Biver today, who happens to be in Miami at the time of writing, and so we are able to give you the complete story straight from the source.

The fact is that Mr Biver and Mr Ecclestone are friends, and surprisingly it was actually the latter who suggested Hublot use his homemade picture (taken with his cellphone) for this campaign. Thus, it seems the idea did not originate from within Hublot.

Secondly, according to Hublot we are talking about a campaign here, as distinctive from a one-off marketing stunt. “Of course it’s not an advertisement, but a series of 3 campaigns. It’s our mission to stand up against hatred, racism, cowardice and violence” explains Biver.

The sincerity in his voice suggests this is not a contentious point for discussion, yet one has to observe that at least 50% of the picture is dedicated to the product. This may in fact be intended as a campaign and not an ad, but nonetheless, it is still disconcerting to see how similar the formulae for each are!

Finally, Hublot is not a newcomer to this area, citing their involvement in a similar campaign with another sporting platform. “We already did something similar to this during the Euro Cup, offering our advertising space along the corner lines to the Foundation ‘ Fight Against Racism’”, reminds Biver, highlighting the strong partnership the brand has with FIFA.

Perhaps this evidence of long term involvement might stand as a definitive proof of Hublot’s good intentions?

The Final Word

“In my opinion, we can’t make and sell quality and prestige without denouncing such wild behaviour”, concludes Biver.

We’ve come to know this man quite well. In this instance we were fortunate enough to spend more than just a few minutes with him and as usual, we had a frank, honest discussion. The mere fact that he personally answered our questions while travelling on the opposite side of the globe demonstrates just how personally he is involved in every facet of Hublot’s brand positioning. We also know that he has a compassionate side and is genuinely affected by such despicable, violent behaviour, especially when it is inflicted on an 81 year old defenceless friend.

Even still, we believe this ad – sorry – campaign, was certainly not the best way to reinforce Hublot’s core values. We are not sure that, without a proper explanation from Mr Biver, the message will be conveyed correctly, especially on media platforms such as the International Herald Tribune or the Financial Times, which have been chosen to display this picture.

This campaign will probably not stand as Hublot’s defining moment, but Mr Biver has already proved to us many times before that he constantly looks a decade ahead.

Time will tell.

Olivier Muller
Olivier Muller
Olivier Muller is half Swiss, half French, and has been raised in the world of haute horlogerie & luxury watches right from the cradle. He now works in Public Relations in Paris.

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