Much time and effort has been put into proving the link between outstanding creative work and advertising effectiveness. But creative ads are only one part of the equation. The National Savings campaign shows strategic and media “creativity” can result in outstanding effectiveness.

National Savings exists primarily to help finance Government borrowing and has to compete with an array of financial institutions, each offering a large and ever-increasing variety of options.

Unlike most of these organisations, National Savings has neither a branded presence, nor a salesforce. And last year, one of its competitors, Abbey National, spent well over three times as much as National Savings on media.

National Savings’ old-fashioned image holds it back, with consumers perceiving it as only for the old and the young, and of little relevance to the wealthier Nineties’ investor.

The organisation’s brief was to achieve a strategic leap capable of taking it forward to the year 2000. As its primary objective is efficiency, National Savings wanted to target 40 to 55-year-old “high net worth investors” more effectively.

HHCL & Partners and Mich-aelides & Bednash devised a twin strategy.

The first was the idea of the Virtual Shop. Using media as distribution is not a new idea, but conventional off-the-page ads function more like roving ice-cream vans than shops.

In a market where people “buy” infrequently, a hit and miss approach is highly risky.

But by “thinking retail” a strategy was created which ensures that National Savings is always there when people need to find it. The organisation has now opened a number of “permanent” Virtual Shops. Every week, in key newspapers, there is a Virtual Shop ad in the main news section with general information on a chosen product, leading to an ad in the personal finance section with a coupon for off-the-page sales.

The second strategy involved a complete reappraisal of National Savings’ positioning and therefore its benefits, again with the core target market’s needs in mind. This is summed up in the line, “unique investment opportunities for HM Treasury”.

This initiative promotes the competitive benefits relevant to the target market – for example the fact that National Savings’ unique tax-free investments can be held in addition to Tessas and Peps.

In the first month of the new advertising, sales rose by 20 per cent. In the last financial year National Savings raised a record 11.6bn.

Since efficiency is the main aim (as enshrined in National Savings’ “remit” from the Government), average transaction values are the key measure of advertising effectiveness. These are already moving strongly in the right direction.

Creativity in media, strategy and execution have contributed to strong increases in sales efficiency and big improvements in National Savings’ ability to appeal to its core target.

The organisation’s impressive sales results were, according to The Daily Telegraph, “enough to finance most of the Government’s overspend and cut income tax by a further penny in the pound”.

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