DIRECT: PROFILE - RACHEL MEDILL/M&G stalwart streamlines operation/Rachel Medill is counting on one agency to produce an integrated branding drive, Robert Dwek says

Rachel Medill, M&G’s director of group communications, describes her company as ’the most amazing place, which inspires enormous amounts of loyalty and a sense of wanting to do the right thing’. In her present role, which she took on last summer, Medill will no doubt be hoping she’s done the right thing by appointing Evans Hunt Scott as the sole agency for all of M&G’s above- and below-the-line marketing.

Rachel Medill, M&G’s director of group communications, describes

her company as ’the most amazing place, which inspires enormous amounts

of loyalty and a sense of wanting to do the right thing’. In her present

role, which she took on last summer, Medill will no doubt be hoping

she’s done the right thing by appointing Evans Hunt Scott as the sole

agency for all of M&G’s above- and below-the-line marketing.



The mutual fund giant has previously appointed agencies specialising in

financial services, such as Camp Chipperfield Hill Murray and DMB&B

Financial. A big user of direct mail and posters, M&G’s creative has

erred on the basic: that familiar black and blue lettering and blocky

typeface which tended to shout rather than suggest.



Slogans such as ’The Only Three Unit Trusts You’ll Ever Need’ got to the

point but were too much like a Sergeant-Major barking orders on the

parade ground.



For a while, this didn’t matter since M&G had the field to itself. But

the 90s has brought new competition from the likes of Perpetual and

Prudential and a host of low-cost index tracking funds from new players

such as Virgin and Marks & Spencer.



With bad timing, M&G’s fund performance began to falter and it wasn’t

long before the mega-brand was looking like yesterday’s news. But in

true M&G Recovery Fund fashion, the last couple of years have seen a

turnaround, thanks largely to a new chief executive, Michael McLintock,

new fund managers and new marketing.



The crowning glory of this rebirth was Prudential’s generous offer for

M&G, recently announced and accepted by M&G’s shareholders with barely

concealed glee. Prudential has been making lots of reassuring noises

about its desire to keep, and indeed strengthen, the M&G brand.



This is where Medill plays a key role. But she’s the first to admit that

when it comes to marketing jargon and brand-speak, she’s a

non-starter.



’I don’t really have a marketing background and, frankly, I’m not

interested in all this above- and below-the-line stuff,’ she confesses.

’To me, it all boils down to different ways of reaching people and

communicating the right message.’



After graduating from Durham University in 1986, Medill tried to become

a professional horse rider. But financial problems brought her down to

earth and she was forced to find a job that would get her back into the

black. A short stint selling financial service products on a

commission-only basis proved a ’harsh introduction’ to the financial

world.



After four months at FPS, Medill was disconcerted to find herself

labelled the unit trust expert, ’which terrified the hell out of me’.

However, she decided she wanted to know more about this ’interesting

area’ and moved to the unit trust side of NatWest Stockbrokers. Having

joined three days after the October 87 crash, she was part of a rapidly

shrinking NatWest workforce.



She moved to M&G in 1989, also on the investment side, and made an

internal switch to the press and communications department in 1994.

Medill’s present role began in July 1998. What she lacks in official

marketing training, she makes up for in her enthusiasm to transform

M&G’s image and rejuvenate the brand.



Having spent more than two years thinking about the M&G brand with a

view to a relaunch, Medill sums up the negatives as ’stolid, stuffy and

authoritarian, like a strict grandfather’, and distils the positives

down to ’solid, trustworthy, respectable and dependable’.



When it was still in the doldrums, M&G thought the answer to this

dilemma might be an unaccustomed spot of TV advertising, starring the

now slimline ex-Chancellor, Nigel Lawson. But the campaign, created by

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, seemed to do more for his profile than for

M&G’s.



Medill doesn’t rule out TV in the future but believes the way forward

lies in the continued use of posters - a medium which M&G pioneered in

the financial services sector - and a more customer-friendly use of

direct marketing, especially for customer retention. She has been

instrumental in turning a dull newsletter into an incipient customer

magazine, Money & Growth.



Other Medill initiatives include persuading her bosses to offer a

freephone number instead of the standard Chelmsford office number; and

commissioning EHS to produce a new Customer Handbook that has already

become ’a major acquisition tool’.



Above all, though, Medill is determined to create a much more integrated

and seamless use of media - hence the decision to have just one agency

handling everything.



EHS, of course, has quite a track record in through-the-line branding,

while its heavy consumer focus should be an asset to the new-look

M&G.



Ironically, the agency was not included in M&G’s first pitch last year

because it already handled the Prudential. When it did get to pitch

second time around, EHS made an immediate impression.



Sarah Bradley, the M&G account director at EHS, thinks it ’will take

some time’ to transform M&G’s image ’from shouting to something much

softer’, but the ambition is ’very achievable’.



Still living the life of a would-be show-jumping professional, Medill

fits in her riding by rising at 5am every morning. Isn’t this a bit of a

strain on the system? ’I’m an all or nothing sort of person,’ she

insists. ’Whether it’s riding, working or socialising, I can’t bear

doing things by halves.’



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