Friends Provident in 3m review amid merger talks

Friends Provident, the UK life assurer, is reviewing its 3m brand, advertising and media accounts in an overhaul of its marketing roster. The move accompanies merger talks with rival Resolution to create an 8bn life assurer, amid growing speculation that Friends could itself be the subject of a rival bid.

Friends Provident, the UK life assurer, is reviewing its £3m brand, advertising and media accounts in an overhaul of its marketing roster. The move accompanies merger talks with rival Resolution to create an £8bn life assurer, amid growing speculation that Friends could itself be the subject of a rival bid.

The review is being led by head of strategy and communications Grant Joffe, who joined Friends from BP in March 2007. A new roster is due to be in place by the end of October.

A spokeswoman says: “Following on from a successful ‘brand refresh’ in 2005, the time is now right to consider how developing needs and future aspirations are best met by agency partners.” Grand Union picked up the integrated advertising brief ahead of the refresh in June 2005, following a four-way pitch. It was tasked with developing Friends’ first brand-building campaign, using press, online and events.

There has been no incumbent on the account, although M&C Saatchi and McCann Erickson have previously worked on the business.

Historically, the group has not been a high-profile advertiser, focusing its spend on individual products, rather than building a high brand profile.

Media is handled by Adventis Coltman, part of the Adventis group. However, the assurer is understood to have at least a dozen roster agencies, and is considering consolidating much of the business into a “core” roster.

In May last year, Friends extended its sponsorship of English Test match cricket grounds in a deal worth £1m a year. It allows it to brand perimeter board advertising and sightscreens, and runs until the conclusion of the Ashes series in 2009.

Friends has been regarded as a potential bid target since demutualising in 2001. French insurer Axa and Standard Life are both rumoured to be considering making a bid.

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