‘TV soaps should educate consumers on debt issues’

The Government should use popular soap operas such as Coronation Street and EastEnders to educate consumers about financial services, according to a new Treasury-backed report.

The Thoresen Review of Generic Financial Advice, written by Otto Thoresen, the chief executive financial services group of Aegon UK, also suggests the financial services industry could save £57m in marketing costs each year by supporting a government-backed cash education scheme.

The final report published this week sets out a number of recommendations for the government and industry-backed generic financial advice scheme, Money Guidance. It follows an interim report, published last year, which said an ad budget of up to £30m could be set aside to support the proposed free advice scheme (MW November 1, 2007).

The Government has pledged £12m for a large-scale trial of the service, which will be led by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Thoresen suggests television could play a “big part” in the engagement strategy and recommends positioning the service within a storyline of “one of the popular soap operas” or creating a Money Guidance-themed “lifestyle” series. He urges the Government to use initiatives to form part of the trial.

The report further details how the industry-backed service could save it money. It says that the industry spends around £1.5bn a year on advertising and promotion, with a further £4bn in commissions to intermediaries.

Thoresen says that the industry’s advertising and marketing campaigns will be more effective if targeted at an audience that understands basic financial facts. He adds: “Any attempt to put a value on this would be purely speculative, but if the figures quoted could be reduced by just 1%, this would generate savings across the industry of £57m a year.”

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