- Product/Brand - first direct
- Spot - Platypus
- Song Title - I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night / Wet Dream
- Composer - Tucker/Manze / Morgan/Lee
- Publisher - Sony/ATV / Westbury Music
- Artist - The Electric Prunes / Max Romeo
- Record Company - Warner / Universal
- Music Supervisor - Band And Brand Association
- Ad Agency - JWT
- Creative(s) - Jason Berry, Miles Bingham, Kevin Masters
- Film Company - Outsider
- Film Director - Dom & Nic
- Post Product - MPC
- Air Date - May 27 2013
“A platypus walks into a bank? Yeah I know. I’ve heard them all before…”
But you haven’t seen too many spots like this one.
It was commissioned by agency JWT specifically to help HSBC’s first direct bank re-energise its image and attract younger consumers in the run up to its 25th anniversary.
According to first direct head of marketing Lisa Wood the challenge facing this commercial, which broke on May 27, is to reassert first direct credentials for being ”individualistic …quirky and ultimately un-bank-like“ while still retaining its reputation for high levels of customer service.
“We’re now seen as a quiet brand, whereas first direct used to be quite a loud brand,” Wood said in an interview with Marketing magazine. “We need to get some of that back.”
But where others might be tempted to meet that brief with something big and brash and overtly yoof-ful, JWT has gone the other way by recruiting noted music video directors Dom & Nic to shoot a film which is sleek and stylish and deliberately downbeat. And, they hope, highly memorable too.
It goes a long way down that last road by handing the star role to that weirdest of creatures, an Australian duck-billed platypus called Barry, the only mammal in the world that also lays eggs.
“He’s a very unique animal and reinforces the message that first direct are a very unique bank who do things differently,” says JWT creative Miles Bingham who started work on this project in October last year.
“When you have to create an interesting personality for a brand, animals can do a lot of heavy lifting for you,” adds creative director Jason Berry. “He’s computer generated, of course, but was designed to look as real as possible, right down to the bone structure.”
In the full 60 second version of the spot, which, like first direct commercials of old, was shot in the coolest black and white, Barry treads some of the more photogenic streets in the Islington and Shoreditch areas of North and East London, meeting up with a variety of local residents including a rasta pensioner on a mobility scooter by the name of Bernard.
The journey begins in Haggle Vinyl, a secondhand record shop on the Essex Road, re-named Madder Records for the film. It provided music supervisor Dave Bartram at Band And Brand Association with the key to sorting out a soundtrack which, unusually, features two distinctly different music tracks.
“The directors wanted to concentrate on 60's psychedelic rock or old soul tracks for the record shop because most second hand vinyl shops stock those genres. “says Bartram. “Similarly ska or reggae was an obvious way to go for the mobility scooter scene.
“The original idea was to have music for three key scenes but we narrowed it down to increase our chances of affording cooler, better known titles for the opening record shop scene and the conversation with Bernard, “ he says
Bartram didn’t start work on the project until the edit stage. From the beginning the creatives and the director stressed that the music choices needed to feel as authentic as possible.
“To help achieve this, we aimed to clear our two preferred tracks within budget, rather than opting for volume discount deals by getting lesser-known tracks from a single music company, or settling for any unknown soundalike production music tracks,” he explains.
In all Bartram reckons that 300 tracks were pitched for the first direct spot, but that the two which were chosen – The Electric Prunes’ cult 1966 psychedelic rocker I Had To Much To Dream Last Night and Max Romeo’s controversial Top 10 ska hit Wet Dream from 1968 – quickly emerged as firm favourites.
“Having two very different musical styles helps to flesh out the platypus' character I think.”
Dom & Nic further point out that what links both songs is the word ‘dream’ in the title.
Sadly though, there are no plans for our friendly half mammal half bird duck-billed platypus to appear in any other first direct spots when this campaign, currently scheduled to run on UK TV for the next six months, is over.
“It's a one off,” says Berry. ”The platypus is not going to be the official spokesman for the bank moving forward.”
All together now. One, two, three…aaaaaaahhh!