Friday, August 31, 2007

HSBC - 5th Avenue Flagship


These photos come from HSBC's flagship branch/brokerage center here in New York. As retail formats go it's certainly not among my favorites, but it is one of the earliest branches to employ digital signage and proto-interactive applications (circa 2000?) here in the city. The branch, to my knowledge, remains unique among HSBC's 400+ retail locations in the US.



There are three core electronic communications elements in the branch: 1) the three 2 x 2 arrays of plasma monitors in the windows, which glow by night but are exceedingly difficult to see during the day, 2) an LED stock ticker that weaves its way throughout the interior of the branch (the rotating barbershop pole of brokerage centers here in New York), and 3) a forrest of interactive "web terminal" totems for customers to check their account balances and make trades in the lobby.


The branch cuts a striking figure at night, when the entire lobby and the digital windows glow from the street, but due to glare--a factor known and accounted for today--the leigibility of the plasma screens is maligned substantially during the day, to the point where I've never actually seen someone stop to read them. The content probably also has something to do with that...it alternates between network news (without sound, what's the point in watching a talking head?) and the same sequence of 4-5 content spots that has been playing since the signs were installed. Nor have I ever seen more than 1-2 people checking their account balance at the preponderance of interactive banking terminals. Perhaps their value is more strongly brand-oriented; when the facility was built I suspect offering internet banking and account access still seemed like the vanguard of retail banking and brokerage. I would like to see the bank come up with some more inventive ways of using the fixtures, however, as they send a different, unintended message ("nobody banks here") today.


In summary, HSBC and its design agency, BrandPartners, are to be applauded for their early adoption of electronic communications media, and for the ambition displayed in the variety of applications employed. It's time for a refresh, though, guys...even if it's just a few new content spots! Retail format design was supplied by BrandPartners, content is produced by DDC, and the signs are managed using software from 3M Digital Signage.

(Photos taken from BrandParnters, DDC websites)

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