HSBC, Invite Commenters Into Display Ads

HSBC and are inviting that site’s readers to comment on the bank’s display ads. Or more accurately, in the ads themselves.

As part of its long-running Different Values campaign, HSBC began placing banner ads on the New York magazine Web site yesterday that take readers to a landing page, co-hosted by the bank and the publisher, where they can submit their opinions on five different topics, from the environment to technology.

“We thought what better way to deepen the conversation about values — which is what HSBC, as the world’s largest bank, is all about — than to let the consumer own the dialogue by going on a digital soap box, so to speak,” said Johanna Breman Tzur, head of HSBC brand and advertising, North America. “Facilitating that dialogue in the digital sphere really allows us to own the conversation and allows the commenters to seed the dialog.”

In order to get the conversation going, HSBC recruited five of’s regular commenters to engage in a private, two-hour chat on the topics late last month. The advertiser then selected a handful of comments from that session to include on the landing page when it launched, giving other commenters some opinions to react to.

“We partnered with New York Magazine to basically invite those commenters who we thought were very opinionated and who were frequent in commenting to join the conversation,” said Breman Tzur. She added that the commenters were being compensated for their participation, but not by the bank. is picking up the tab for that.

While HSBC is hoping to spur some intriguing dialogue, it is not offering its ad space as a platform for every opinion or conspiracy theory on the Internet. The forums are being monitored by staff, and comments are read and approved before posting. Commenters are warned upfront that profanity and other offensive language will not be tolerated.

The commenting function is also not tied to the database. Readers wishing to leave a comment must submit a name and e-mail address, even if they are already registered with the host site.

After leaving a comment, readers are given the opportunity to view some other collateral from the campaign, such as video from an event the bank held in New York’s Madison Square Park earlier this summer in which passersby were filmed voicing their opinions while standing on a soap box.

HSBC bought out all the inventory on on Monday, the launch day for the campaign. It will continue to have a front-page presence there throughout the week.

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