Grey London Rides ‘Lift’ for HSBC

By Erik Oster 

Grey London launched a new spot for HSBC, entitled “Lift,” which, like Mad Men, explores the dramatic possibilities of the elevator.

The 90-second spot follows a man, portrayed by actor Stephane Coulon, and his business, Cadours Industries, through 40 years in one elevator ride. Time is tied to the rising elevator, expressed in changing fashions and hairstyles, with scenes of familial and business drama intimated through scenes unfolding within. The spot, set to a dramatic piano score, eschews dialogue and voiceover altogether. “Lift” ends with the man finally exiting the elevator, 40 years older than when he entered, followed by the tagline, “It’s Never Just Business.” It’s certainly a welcome departure from the usual clinical coldness of the category, with the ad calling to mind Mad Men not just because of its elevator setting but also its careful attention to detail and perfect editing.


Nick Rowland, creative director at Grey London, told Adweek the agency’s “It’s Never Just Business” campaign, marks “a shift away from the pinstripes, percentage points and money that this category operates in. It’s about people. People selling to people. Relationships.” He added that the spot “is a metaphor. It’s a journey. A company, and a person moving upwards. Sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth—but the journey always continues.”

Rowland explained that the shoot for the ad, shot in just under a week, was full of challenges. Among them were the obvious difficulties of shooting in such a small space and portraying the passing of time without any dialogue or narration, but also included an allergic reaction by Coulon to his makeup on the last day of shooting. “It was a bit tense waiting for the side effects to calm down, but he just carried on and nailed it again and again,” he said.


Client: HSBC
Client: Sarah Threadgould, Head of Marketing Communications and Campaign Strategy, Global Commercial Bank, HSBC
Project: “Lift”
Creative Agency: Grey London
Creative Director: Nick Rowland
Copywriter: Jamie Starbuck
Copywriter: Theo Bayani
Art Director: Miguel Gonzales
Account Team: Barbara Waite, Alex Clarke
Agency Producer: Harriette Larder
Planner: Matthew Gladstone
Media Agency: Mindshare
Media Planner: Edward Fall
Production Company: Independent Films
Director: Gary Freedman, The Glue Society
Executive Producer: Jani Guest
Producer: Jason Kemp
DOP: Stephane Fontaine
Editor: Adam Spivey
Postproduction: Tom Johnson @ The Mill
Soundtrack Composer: Yann Tiersen
Audio Postproduction: Sam Robson @ 750mph