Advalue:THE ALLIED DUNBAR CAMPAIGN:Industry Viewpoint

Dominic Owens, Advertising and design manager at the Prudential

A llied Dunbar’s new advertising theme has only been with us for a couple of years, but it has already made it into the land of television spoof. At first the advertisements felt slightly uncomfortable, but as the song and dance routine grew on you and the comedy shows lampooned it and the original song itself was re-released, it made the successful leap from “nice idea” to “great campaign”.

Like most financial campaigns, it cannot directly show that it influenced sales. Allied Dunbar has done fairly well recently in a bad market, but there are so many other factors involved that separating out the influence of the advertising is almost impossible.

What is clear to see from the research (and our own at Prudential) is that the idea has caught people’s imagination and despite the apparently gloomy scenes, the residual effect of the song and the Dennis Potter style is to leave people feeling better about the company.

There were some macabre press ads around at the launch, one in particular looking up from the bottom of a grave, but the campaign seems to have settled on a lighter, more positive note that probably works much better with consumers. Dammit.

Our research suggests that there was initially some trouble with the branding of the campaign, and that ad recall wasn’t as high as Scottish Widows and Direct Line (the best in the sector), but there are signs of a cumulative effect and the frequent use of cut-downs may help.

The challenge for the future is that which most TV-led financial campaigns face – namely carrying the theme through to other media (including through the line) and ensuring that the company promise is delivered when the customer uses the service.

The latter is a key point. Most big financial advertisers are still struggling to achieve ad awareness when the real battle should be about brand differentiation. There will only be room for a few big banks, building societies and insurance companies and the ones that survive the next ten years will not only have to be good businesses but will also have to make people want or prefer to deal with them.

The art of survival will take vast improvements in products, pricing and distribution, but it will also require the building of real service brands, of which there are relatively few in finance.

Only when Allied Dunbar delivers more “music” and more “dancing” for its customers than their competitors will the true brand-building begin. Good ads are always welcome, but we need to deliver great brands and that is going to take a little longer.

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