Abbey hunts for credit card launch agency

Abbey is looking for a direct marketing agency to lead the launch of its credit card, to be rolled out next year. It is working with the AAR to draw up a shortlist of agencies, and is planning to have completed the pitch by the end of May.

The pitch follows Abbey-owner Grupo Santander’s decision to bring its credit card business in-house after five years of outsourcing to MBNA, the US affinity card specialist that is owned by Bank of America, a rival to Santander.

Roger Lovering, who joined Abbey earlier this month as managing director of credit cards, is overseeing the pitch.

The bank insists the search will not affect the work of existing Abbey roster agencies and it is believed DM incumbent Tequila/London will be involved in the pitch. The credit card business is expected to be worth several million pounds. It is not known if Abbey will look for a separate above-the-line agency to work on the launch.

Santander ended the relationship with MBNA earlier this year because it wanted more flexibility in how it deals with credit card customers, the products it develops and the cross-sales opportunities among its 18 million existing customers.

The U-turn in its credit-card marketing strategy is one of a number of moves Santander has made since buying the Abbey business in November 2004. It moved its &£25m media planning and buying account from MindShare to Carat in November last year following a competitive pitch. Carat also holds the group’s online media account. Abbey had earlier appointed WCRS as its creative agency, replacing TBWA/London.

New customers will be offered Abbey credit cards from next year, although MBNA will continue to administer the 1.2 million Abbey branded cards that currently exist.

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