UBS Refreshes Brand for the Digital Era, Asks Life's Tough Questions

Photographer Annie Leibovitz Tapped for Outdoor, Print and Digital Ads

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Campaign photography by Annie Leibovitz for the new UBS global brand campaign, launched 1 September 2015. ©Annie Leibovitz
Campaign photography by Annie Leibovitz for the new UBS global brand campaign, launched 1 September 2015. ©Annie Leibovitz

Global banking firm UBS is reintroducing itself to the world this week with a digital-heavy brand refresh and ad campaign that plays on life's common questions.

The bank, which just posted its highest quarterly profit in five years, hopes the effort will usher the brand into the digital age and show off UBS's client-driven investment philosophy.

"It is coming back strong after the financial crisis, after a change of strategy, coming out, being confident but obviously also very humble about who we are," said Johan Jervoe, group chief marketing officer. "That all leads into the core brand promise: We embrace our clients goals as our own."

To get that message across for each of its business units, UBS is scrapping the tagline, "We will not rest," which was introduced after the financial crisis and highlighting the campaign message: "For some of life's questions, our clients are not alone. Together we can find an answer."

A 90-second launch spot, breaking Sept. 1, takes a page from Apple's playbook by using simple black text on a white background set to emotional music. Questions spanning a lifetime of milestones with obvious and not-so-obvious financial implications, such as, "Is Santa real?"; "Will you marry me?"; and "Am I a good father?" are asked to the song "Hero" by Family of the Year, which was also featured in the film "Boyhood."

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The text-only approach, which speaks in the voice of the client, was designed to stir images in customers' minds. "It's what happens in the mind's eye that actually makes it incredibly emotional for a lot of people," said Hubertus Kuelps, group head communications and branding for UBS, after testing the campaign. It's meant to make clients feel like the bank understands them, and can help them find the right answers.

Text also allows UBS to easily customize the spot to react to major world events, such as the recent free-fall in Chinese stocks, which rebounded before tumbling again on Monday. Mr. Kuelps said the company plans to create custom videos for events like this, but has currently only tailored the creative for particular client groups, such as corporate institutions.

The new effort, from font selection to imagery and tone, is mobile, digital and social-ready -- a shift for the bank, which last updated its brand before the days of Facebook and Twitter. It is 70% digital to align with the way UBS's target audience -- wealth managers, investment bankers and corporate institutions -- consume media today. The campaign also includes TV, print and out-of-home, as well as a classic media mix in Switzerland, where UBS serves as a universal bank.

Annie Leibovitz shot the images for the banner, out-of-home and print ads, using real people who she felt exemplify UBS's client base and relate to the questions being asked. For example, Peter Thum, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and father, is the subject in the ad that asks, "Am I a good father?"

Campaign photography by Annie Leibovitz for the new UBS global brand campaign, launching 1 Sept. 2015. ©Annie Leibovitz
Campaign photography by Annie Leibovitz for the new UBS global brand campaign, launching 1 Sept. 2015. ©Annie Leibovitz

"She has this unbelievable talent in being around you for two or three days and then she finds that frame, excuse me for the pun, she finds that frame where everybody goes 'That's exactly Mick,'" said Mr. Jervoe, referring to portraits Ms. Liebovitz shot of Mick Jagger. "That is not too different from how our financial advisors and client advisers read and question their clients in order to get their answers."

The digital banner ads, to be featured on news and lifestyles sites like Bloomberg, Financial Times, The Economist, and Vanity Fair, link back to branded content that addresses the questions in the creative through articles, behind-the-scenes videos and other content, which lives on a microsite. The content hub is expected to grow as the campaign evolves in order to help clients sift through the plethora of financial content available online.

"You can actually get to any answer that you want without knowing if it's right or wrong," said Mr. Jervoe. "The question that really comes out on top of all of our clients minds [is]… I need someone that can support me in finding first the right questions for me to ask and then help me get to the right answer."

The hub will also feature a video series with 40 Nobel prize winners. And UBS will roll out sponsored posts in publications like Forbes and The Economist.

UBS worked with a roster of Publicis agencies on the refresh, including lead creative Publicis Groupe; digital arm Poke London; media agency Starcom MediaVest; independent Zurich-based design shop SNK; brand consultancy Prophet; and Massive Music, which handled the sonic logo.

Mr. Kuelps declined to comment on the budget for the push, which will run in Europe, the U.S., and Asia.

UBS spent nearly $2 million in U.S. measured media in 2014, according to Kantar Media.

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