Monday, December 27, 2010
A few days ago, I was notified by someone I unfortunately do not recall(and if you read this, please remind me so I can give proper credit) about an absolutely abhorrent ad by HSBC bank touting it's investments in Iran.
After locating the company's US advertising officials, I sent the following To Diane Bergan, listed as their Senior Vice President in charge of Public Affairs US:
Dear Ms. Bergan;
In view of its stance on civil liberties and how Iran treats women, homosexuals, Jews, and Baha'is, I was surprised to see a major Western bank endorsing the Iranian regime with an advertising campaign, let alone boasting about investing there.
Tell me, does that 25% mentioned in the ad refer to female filmmakers or the percentage of Iranian women who have been beaten and/or raped by the basij in places like Evin Prison?
Needless to say, I will out of principle refuse to have my company fund any construction or investment through HSBC in the future.
I then alerted my e-mail list. Today, I received the following:
Dear Mr. Miller:
Your email correspondence directed to Diane Bergan, Senior Vice President – Public Affairs, regarding an “Unlocking the World’s Potential” campaign advertisement has been forwarded to the Executive Offices of HSBC Bank USA, N.A.
First and foremost on behalf of HSBC Bank I apologize for the concern which our advertisement in Greece caused. The advertisement was part of an HSBC global campaign and one of many which identified simple but surprising facts as a way to facilitate a conversation about unlocking the world’s potential.
So while our aim is to encourage debate and discussion we certainly have no intent to cause offense or be insulting, in fact quite the opposite.
Given the clear level of offense that this advertisement has caused the decision has been taken to remove it from our global campaign.
We respect your position and thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us.
Senior Vice President
Head of Customer Experience
Note two things...first, while HSBC may not curtailing its investments in Iran just yet, they recognize the hypocrisy and inappropriateness of the ad they used and took action. That's an important first step.
Second, even a huge corporation like HSBC are very conscious of their public image, as they should be. Point out something like this to them, and they notice. Realize that you can make a difference, and such small differences add up over time.