From lemons to lemonade: The Ecclestone Hublot Ad

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade.

Introducing the new Hublot ad:

On the night of November 25, Bernie Ecclestone, the 80-year-old Formula 1 boss, was mugged and beaten in the face by four men outside the F1 London headquarters. The attackers took £200,000 worth of jewelery, including his Hublot watch.

He sent his picture to the folks of Hublot with this message: "See what people do for an Hublot."

The controversial ad is appearing in the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune. Of course, in an effort to be politically correct, the company takes the opportunity to state that it "condemns all forms of violence and racism." The campaign has stirred international attention with comments that range from 'brilliant and absolute genius' to 'sick and tormenting'.

Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson says that the ad will help Hublot's advertising stand apart from other competitors' generic campaigns during the Christmas season.

What's positive about it:

In terms of shock value, this ad hits the ball right out of the ballpark. Not only does it ignite instant curiosity, but it sure draws media attention. Just think of the hundreds of journalists and bloggers who are talking about it this very minute. It's a PR fest without even trying. This comes in very handy specially during this time of year- a period in which brands are coughing up millions in just printed advertising.

The ad transmits an element of "the unexpected". Has anyone ever tried to do this before? Better yet- has anyone ever attempted to combine the concept of "unexpected" with a luxury brand?

Brand awareness times 100. The ad and articles written on the subject guarantee massive presence everywhere. The debate that has generated has provided Hublot with a lot of coverage. We'll get the product's picture in our heads for relatively little money.

What's not so positive about it:

Consider the association people might develop towards the brand because of the ad. Some have called this a flop, claiming it a shocking and repulsive image. Others think it in poor taste, claiming that the campaign makes a mockery out of people who have been mugged, hence promoting crime.

An Internet user stated: "What a horrible message to send out to the public- buy our watches and you will get beaten up to death." Is that what we want? Do we want to end up like Bernie Ecclestone?

I know brand exposure sounds like music to our marketer ears, but do we want it that much when it generates negative connotations? Does the fact someone went through these drastic measures of beating someone up mean that Hublot brings out the worst in people? When it comes to positioning, what weighs more- short-term brand exposure or long-term brand image?

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