Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

The new-look UBS: caring, angst-filled and existential

If banks could grow beards, UBS is now a thoughtful hipster who plays acoustic guitar.

The Swiss giant has launched a global campaign to distance itself from a culture of arrogance and a litany of scandals, and present a more caring human face. The campaign is crisp, simple and emotive. It asks a number of questions, some involving financial decisions:

Should we start our own business? Can we get a mortgage? Is my business growing fast enough?

As well as a few curly questions that would flabbergast most pin-striped bankers.

Where do I come from? Is Santa real? Will you marry me? Is this the life I dreamed of as a little girl? What shall we name the twins?

UBS announces it is here to share our aspirations and our angst.

For some of life’s questions you are not alone. Together we can find an answer.

Watch the advertisement here

UBS hired the services of photographer Annie Leibovitz, the camera doyen of image-conscious celebrities, and now Swiss banks. She turns her lens on entrepreneurial figures wrestling with questions such as Am I a good father? Do I spend too much time at work? Can I have it all?

The sound of the campaign is fascinating. The above advertisement finishes with the UBS logo and three simple piano chords. Not just any three chords. They are “three chords and the truth”. Like all good marketing today, there’s a story to be told, as well as a short film about “UBS sonic branding” which tells us what a global bank sounds like.

In contrast, the soundtrack to the body of the campaign comes from a universe, light years away from international banking. The song is called Hero, written and performed by Family of the Year, a scruffy indie US folk-pop band. It's a catchy song, tinged with sadness and hope. It features in the acclaimed film, Boyhood, an extraordinary coming-of-age story filmed over 12 years. Here’s the film trailer featuring the new UBS theme song.

The first three verses:

Let me go
I don't wanna be your hero
I don't wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else

Your masquerade
I don't wanna be a part of your parade
Everyone deserves a chance to
Walk with everyone else

While holding down
A job to keep my girl around
And maybe buy me some new strings
And her a night out on the weekend

It’s not a 'let's get a loan and buy a house' song. The last place the song’s protagonist would show his face would be inside a bank. But you might find him busking outside a bank... if he can afford his guitar strings.  All he wants is a job that pays enough money to keep his girlfriend, allows him to maybe buy some new guitar strings and go out once a week. Watch and listen to the song in full here.

The rebranded UBS is aimed at both the public and its own banks employees, two groups that lost respect for UBS following its heavy losses in the crash of 2008 and ongoing tax and trading scandals.

It was developed by UBS chief marketing officer, Johan Jervoe, a 47 year old Dane, who has held senior marketing posts at McDonalds and Intel.

As part of the launch, UBS has commissioned a photographic project from Ms. Leibovitz exploring the changes in the roles of women today, and the bank will also produce a series of interviews with Nobel Prize Economic laureates.











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