Close-Up: Live Issue - Is advertising to staff worthwhile?

What does targeting employees with specially created advertising achieve, Claire Billings asks.

Over the next three months, Barclays' staff arriving by Tube at the bank's Canary Wharf headquarters will be met by giant 48-sheet poster ads, aimed at making sure they are on-message ahead of a new ad campaign and brand proposition rolling out in October.

It's a bold move by the Barclays' marketing director, Jim Hytner-most companies prefer to keep their advertising aimed at staff behind closed doors.

The posters mark the first stage in Hytner's new strategy, which centres on Barclays as a creative and inventive organisation. Its eventual aim is to get consumers, who may have been alienated by the "fluent in finance" campaign, to consider the bank again.

The staff-facing campaign introduces the new slogan, designed to be more inclusive: "Barclays. There's a thought." It aims to make staff feel better about themselves and their jobs with lines including: "Barclays people are prettier (because great ideas take lots of preening.)"

But few companies display staff communications so openly, which has led some to question whether Hytner has other motives. Some in the industry have suggested that the campaign has, in part, been designed to irritate Barclays' competitors, such as its neighbour, HSBC. Hytner argues it is just a way of saying hello to rivals and establishing Barclays within Canary Wharf.

Nonetheless, the ads, created by Interbrand, have also done a good job of generating publicity about the new proposition ahead of the rest of the campaign by Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

For BT, meanwhile, staff advertising is nothing new. At full pelt, it spends £1.2 million a year on staff advertising, but far less conspicuously.

St Luke's developed a campaign to communicate the company's "three promises" ad idea to staff.

It achieved a 92 per cent cut-through rate, with 70 per cent of staff able to recall what the three pledges were.

Some believe all ads should talk to staff. When McDonald's launched its "I'm lovin' it" marketing strategy, a core objective of the campaign was to target employees.

Robert Campbell, the executive creative director at McCann Erickson London, says: "Any good brand idea should be capable of communicating to staff and making them feel good about the company they work for. Employees are part of the target market. Companies would do well to remember this last point: employees are consumers too."

Simon Clemmow, the planning partner at Clemmow Hornby Inge, adds: "All advertising advertises to staff, although usually only as a secondary audience. It can't help it. Any external campaign should be fully exploited internally."

Many companies consider their internal communications channels, such as intranet and newsletters, sufficient. Others believe that if their consumer advertising campaigns are good enough, they can make staff proud of the brand.

But companies must beware of alienating staff or using advertising as a replacement for internal communications. Frances Wilson, an advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, explains: "It could be seen to be gimmicky and over the top. If you've got good newsletters and good chains of communications and managers who talk to their staff, it's not necessary to do something as big as this."

CLIENT - Jim Hytner, marketing director, Barclays

"Advertising to staff is worthwhile because the brand isn't owned by the marketing department - it's owned by the 80,000 people who work for the brand.

"Unless marketing is understood and enjoyed by an organisation the size of Barclays, you're wasting your time. If we have 80,000 people all living the brand promise, as they do at Tesco, we'll be in good shape.

"Canary Wharf is a one-off way of getting the new proposition out of the blocks. It's a way of galvanising our staff as they get off the Tube, as well as saying hello to our competitors.

"We need to make people proud. It's compulsory that they're proud of and are enjoying the marketing."

HR SPECIALIST - Frances Wilson, advisor, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

"It's about making staff feel good about the place they work at. If the message is good, the ads are cleverly done and people like them, it can reinforce their sense of pride and make them glad to be part of that particular company. That can boost morale and raise the employment brand and make them feel they are working for an employer of choice.

"If it's not done well and it is in their face all the time, people might think they can't get away from work, which could have a negative effect.

"It could also appeal to different groups not reached by other methods of communication."

CLIENT - Kevin Lamey, group marketing and brand head of internal communications, BT

"The object of internal communications is to talk to staff so they understand what we're doing in our external marketing campaigns, why we're doing it and what their role is. When BT did the big 'promises' campaign, promising customers better service, it was essential we prepared staff for it: they had to keep the promises.

"We do do gimmicky things too, such as competitions, but it's all about educating staff."

BRANDING EXPERT - Rita Clifton, chairman, Interbrand

"The important thing is to get the message right and to try to understand what it is that motivates your staff and what tone of voice is appropriate. Then you decide on the channels you're going to use. Sometimes you use external advertising and other times you use internal communications - the task is the same.

"If you're trying to launch something or get across an idea that's high profile, or that you'd like people to know is being taken very seriously, then you're going to try to make it as high profile as possible. You need staff to feel that you're taking their needs as seriously as those of your customers."

Got a view? E-mail us at campaign@haynet.com campaign@haynet.com.

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