Ad Nut
Mar 8, 2017

Emotional minefield: UBS ad for Women’s Day ruins great Joss Stone track

Anthemic ‘Free Me’ song creates one context; unimaginative ad concept creates another.

Warning: this 90-second ad may remind you of every insecurity you’ve ever had.

Ad Nut is fairly sure this wasn’t UBS’s intention when it commissioned this campaign, a collaboration between Publicis London and the music company MassiveMusic to launch the latest wave of the bank’s campaign focusing on women.

Launching as it does on content-heavy International Women’s Day, Ad Nut admits that securing the British soul singer Joss Stone to re-record a version of her track ‘Free Me’ for this ad was a masterly stroke in helping UBS’s campaign to get heard above the noise.

Stone herself may not be renowned for speaking out on women’s position in society, but the song, first recorded in 2009, is held to be a feminist classic.

Joss Stone

Whether its message fits with this ad is a different story. As Stone herself says in a behind-the-scenes video for the recording: “This is not a ‘please treat me equally’ song. It’s ‘you’re going to treat me equally.’” Her lyrics - “Don't tell me that I won't, I will / Don't tell me how to think, I feel” - are similarly punchy.

But when overlaid with the visuals of this ad—a series of questions appearing on screen one after the other—Stone’s ball-busting anthem risks having the wind knocked out of its sails.

“Will having a baby affect my ambitions?”; “How can I spend more time at home?”; “Why do I have to keep proving myself?” Ad Nut recognises the aim to make women feel they’re not alone by posing these questions. It’s just that this simple approach isn’t particularly evocative visually and it also seems a little obvious in concept, even a bit of a get-out. Ad Nut suspects that this question-posing idea is little more than a handy tie-in with UBS’s overall brand campaign, ‘Life’s Questions’, which launched last year.

What does it actually achieve? We already know these questions exist, in the minds of both women and men; it’s what to do about them—and how to stop future generations needing to pose them—that’s the challenge. UBS’s promise at the end, “Together we can find an answer”, doesn’t leave Ad Nut (strictly gender-neutral, mind) sufficiently reassured.

Is this really what International Women’s Day meant by its 2017 theme, #BeBoldForChange? Stone’s song feels bold—the rest of the ad less so.

Ad Nut's verdict: Try harder next time, UBS.


TITLE: UBS Brand Campaign IWD
COPYWRITER: Helena Heras
ART DIRECTOR: Madelien Scholten
ACCOUNT HANDLER: Sally Heiser / Matthew Rene
MEDIA PLANNER: Lenka Kretikova / Kieran Atkinson
MASSIVEMUSIC SERVICES: Music Activation & Sponsorship, Music Strategy & Intelligence, Creative Search & Licensing, Sonic Branding, Music Arrangement & Production
ARTIST: Joss Stone
WRITERS: Jonathan Nicholas Shorten, Joss Stone
MUSIC SYNC: Rerecording of “Free Me” by Joss Stone

Additional Credits:

BTS Joss Stone Film:
AGENCY: Holler
PRODUCER: Sophie Simmons
ACCOUNT HANDLER: Dan Hocking, Steven Flynn, Sophie Gorman

Ad NutAd Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for some unknown reason has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over the world and presents them for your viewing pleasure. Because Ad Nut loves you.

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