INDUSTRY Viewpoint

Ambrose McGinn, Marketing director, Abbey National

National Savings can certainly claim to have re-evaluated the role and approach to tactical financial ads in mainstream press titles.

The financial arena is cluttered with rate graffiti, where the overriding message is price, price and price. National Savings has taken a leaf from the book of other more consumer-oriented financial organisations and has presented the information in a simple format.

The concept of putting highlights in the main pages of the newspapers and application forms in the personal finance section is, I believe, something of a cop out rather than the much referred to strategic leap from HHCL & Partners and media buyer Michaelides & Bednash.

It is a classic dilemma. Running as the first financial ad, or the first ad with a dominant creative theme, in the paper’s main section will attract a much higher response than only running in the specialist sections. But there are consumers who only read the personal finance sections and are willing to scan endless yards of copy to find the best rate.

You could counter that these tricky customers are dealt with in part two of the strategy. The detail and call to action using forms in the personal finance section must appeal to those who scour the pages for value, but they appear alongside competitive ads and potentially critical editorial coverage.

National Savings claims great success for its campaign and I would not want to take the shine off that. But a few points are worth mentioning. The organisation is the consumer cash-raising element of the Treasury, a direct contributor to the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement. Clearly there is an imperative to operate efficiently. However, this is certainly more easily achieved when you are representing the side which makes the rules. National Savings has no reason not to be successful as it can benefit from highly competitive rates and tax advantages set by the Government which, frankly, are not available to those of us operating in the free market.

National Savings spent some 7.7m (Register-MEAL) advertising its competitiveness, which is clearly a significant amount. Given the particular status it enjoys, one might wonder if this gave it a sufficient return.

Abbey National has a considerably larger press budget but this is spent on competing in significantly more markets – mortgages, life assurance, banking, credit card, personal loans, general insurance, pensions, together with savings and investments – and as a result has to make its spend go even further without the benefits of the Treasury.

National Savings has certainly brought its press campaign into the Nineties and has much to be commended for in terms of clarity and consumer propositions. What is less convincing is the value for money it is generating on behalf of the Treasury, particularly in the context of its competitive environment.

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