Earlier this week, an incredible, almost unbelievable advertisement from Hublot exploded like a virtual bomb on the internet. Has Biver 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 JCB 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.

10 thoughts on “Hublot Strikes Again – But Have They Gone Too Far This Time? We Ask JCB (EXCLUSIVE)”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    JCB is a genius.

  2. Chris J says:

    Ok. This hits me in two drastic ways.

    1. Advertisements that glorify extremely harmful, malicious, and, blatantly, ignorant/appalling acts reinforces the stupidity that people feel justify their grotesque acts. Honestly, I like the watch and would love to have one but I have limits (i.e. if I can’t afford it. I will work harder or leverage relationships to attain one legitimately).

    2. Working in the marketing industry (interactive and online communications) I can appreciate the clever spin and powerful execution. The allure of the watch that the advertisement depicts speaks to those within the demographic, as if someone is being inspired my a muse. I do applauded the creativity, timeliness, and (somewhat) tastefulness of the advertisement.

    However, the glorification is something that I cannot overlook and the latter emotions surface. Smart advertisement but societal disservice.

    Lastly, I still would like the watch.

  3. Col says:

    I’m sorry, there are some smart folk in our industry, quite a few of them at Hublot but to me Mr Biver is not one of them. Honestly Jean-Claude, what were you thinking? If it looks like an advert and reads like an advert it’s an advert. That, my friend, is an advert regardless of what you may call it and a tacky one at that. Exactly where is the spiel condemning violence? If it’s really an attempt to reduce violence where did it run? Your usual placements? Somehow I doubt their readership is the ideal target audience for an anti violence campaign. Good places to sell watches however. You lost me on this one sir.

  4. Maarten__S says:

    Let’s start by saying I’m a fierce Hublot fan … When someone talks trash about Hublot, I’ll stand up and defend Hublot !
    That being said, I didn’t know how to react on the campaign when I saw it at first. It rendered me speachless and sleepless for more than a day and night trying to decide wether Hublot would benefit from this campaign as a brand. Thinking it was a joke at first, only to realise they were serious and it would be published in the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times.

    However I’m not sure about the message the campaign tries to broadcast into the world, I’m quite sure this will turn out to be another brilliant piece of creative marketing balls of steel.
    This Hublot advert is on every blogs frontpage, on every discussionforum and on every social media platform everybody is giving their comments (fb, twitter, linkedin …). Even people not familiar with mechanical watches or Hublot are noticing this campaign. With 1 page, Hublot managed to increase its visibility and brandawareness once again.

    The thing I would’ve done differently with this campaign is its format … on that 1 page there is almost no explanation 🙁
    I suggest: A ‘homemade’ video taken with/by Bernie’s cellphone thats shows him talking about what happend and showing the damage done… That way much more information can be shared and the ‘campaign’ will look much more authentic.

    Oh, also I didn’t know Bernie really did wear Hublot, now I do …

  5. Lyle says:

    Could be a case of Karma finally catching up with Mr. Ecclestone. Wouldn’t surprise me that the muggers were from the City of Phoenix, whom Mr. Ecclestone left owing several millions of $ after the two F1 races here. We weren’t the first, nor the last. Not saying I like to see oldsters beaten up, but some I simply won’t cry over.

  6. “Code-breaking brand positioning” is a tough one to fathom and usually isn’t done as a one off scandalizing gimmick like this. My opinion, as expressed before on a previous post, is they saw a fast opportunity to gain some notoriety through the unfortunate attack on Bernie and simply lunged at it with huge blinders on.

    If you decide that your brand should stand against social injustice, violent acts or any other just cause, then common sense says you put your brand in pole position and take action to spread that philosophy across the entire company. The use of a single product (50% image space + product name), not to mention the fact that this is a joint-marketing page (you don’t get to use the F1 logo unless they authorize it and trust me they’re like hawks) reveals this for what it unfortunately is.

    Plus, has anyone checked out Hoblot’s own comments from their Facebook page?

    Hublot Genève ‎@ Co Van Der Hoek : For sure we did 🙂
    @ Dean Magri: totally true!
    @ Abdulaziz Al Shalabi : we provide him a new watch for free and he is a part of the idea for the advertising photo

    For the what?

  7. Col says:

    @ Michael Walsh
    In all fairness English is not Abdulaziz’ first language and I think he means “for the advertisement” rather than implying that the photo was taken with use in a campaign in mind. They do however use the the word “advertisement” which JCB tell us it is not. Which, to me at any rate is just insulting our intelligence. Sorry Jean-Claude, but it’s bleedingly obvious that this is an advert regardless of what you maintain.

  8. I found this ad subversive and hilarious! Very clever marketing that sticks!

    Hublot got what it wanted: visibility!

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