For a number of years, the financial services sector has pursued
the strategy of painting a big picture with television brand campaigns,
while the details are filled in with press and below-the-line activity.
The strategy went unchallenged, mainly because it worked.
But, as the media landscape changes and increasing numbers of consumers
are won over by one of the many new financial services offerings, media
planners and strategists must confront the possibility that traditional
routes are outmoded.
As well as a few big financial services brands, there are a number of
specialist niche operators, with more and more new entrants making
inroads into the market share of the established players.
In the coming months, the pressure on media strategists will be kept up,
as PEPs and TESSAs - which have driven the sector’s growth in the past
five years - are phased out and ISAs are introduced.
The media strategist, MSc, recently won the Bradford & Bingley account,
prompting its managing director, Louise Jones, to take a fresh look at
financial services. She says: ’Financial services is more cluttered than
any other sector. It’s incredibly difficult to get your message across.
As a consumer, it must be rather like going to a football match with
30,000 people all screaming the same message at you.’
Consumers are looking for more information and marketers want a more
direct route through the clutter. They no longer operate in a market
dominated by one medium. Television is the largest single vehicle for
financial services marketing but its influence is declining.
Press, which is suited to financial services advertising because it is
an information-rich environment, comes a close second to TV. The sector
is dynamic, with launches and relaunches happening on a regular basis,
the latest being the relaunch of The Observer’s personal finance section
earlier last month as a standalone tabloid, Cash.
Although still something of an unknown quantity, the internet is likely,
over time, to make the consumer-brand relationship more personal and
personal finance brands are in a strong position to make the most of
For those in the business of planning a campaign, it is a challenging
scenario. The community is divided into two camps; those that believe a
TV-led campaign is still the best means of communicating a company’s
brand values and those who advocate a more personalised approach.
Meanwhile, the client community is anxiously looking to the media
specialists for a solution.
Keith Moor, the advertising and media manager of Abbey National, is
critical of the existing media planning tools and would like to see more
precise measurements introduced. ’Planning will become increasingly
critical in the near future, when the market fragments more,’ he says.
’The challenge for us will be knowing where to find our audience - will
they follow programmes rather than channels, for example? If you can
answer that then you’ll have a distinct advantage over your
A firm advocate of TV - Abbey National spends more than half its ad
budget of pounds 19.1 million on it - Moor is prepared to shift his
expenditure if there is evidence that his customers are focusing on
other media. For the time being, however, he is concentrating on TV.
Halifax, which spends pounds 7.8 million on TV through Zenith, is also
committed to the medium. As Zenith’s managing partner, Rosemary Gorman,
puts it, the aim is to ’win the hearts and minds of consumers’. She
adds: ’Consumers clearly buy into brands before they buy into products
and that is why the brand is terribly important.’
But research shows that, despite the pounds 166 million spent
above-the-line by financial services providers, consumers remain
blissfully unaware of some brands and few of them relish the prospect of
shopping around, even though they should, given the increasing
importance of personal finance as the welfare state retreats.
There is, indeed, little point in spending huge sums on traditional
media, believes the managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash, Tony
Regan. ’So many companies are so preoccupied with getting to the top of
the ’awareness heap’ that they fail to see that things are changing.
Advertising on that scale is a defensive strategy,’ he says.
He has a point. Look at the relative success of new entrants such as
Virgin and Goldfish. They have both employed an aggressive marketing
proposition and used media schedules with a twist. Goldfish, for
example, recognised that women are now just as likely to wear the
financial trousers as their male partners. Accordingly it used women’s
magazines to reach them.
Virgin entered the market trumpeting its ’woolly jumper’ brand
attributes at a time when PEPs were on the ascendant. To highlight its
straight-talking personality it devised and booked colour press ads in
large formats in contrast to its rivals’ black-and-white executions.
According to research conducted by MORI Financial Services, 12 per cent
of all new credit cards issued between July and December 1997 went to
Goldfish, while the market leader, Barclaycard - which has a pounds 20
million-plus media budget - accounted for only 13 per cent. In the same
poll MBNA, which does not advertise above the line but uses aggressive
editorial price comparisons and direct mail, was found to have netted a
10 per cent share of new cards issued. Brand awareness is just not
enough, Regan argues.
’Information is taking over from communications. It’s not about the push
mentality any more. Companies have to be more skilful in making
information about products available.’
The rising demand for information has seen a boom in the number of
specialist titles devoted to guiding the consumer through the financial
services minefield. Titles such as the successful Bloomberg Money -
launched a year ago - are testimony to this. Investors Chronicle has
seen its circulation increase by 5 per cent year on year and the profile
of its readers has broadened from the well-heeled armchair investor to
include younger consumers.
Time Warner is thinking of launching Money Magazine, a weekly
mass-market guide to the personal finance market, in the UK.
National newspapers have joined in with their own standalone personal
finance sections. Responses to press ads are generally considered to be
stronger than ones generated through TV - a fact borne out by the
strength of The Mail on Sunday’s Financial Mail section, which was
launched in 1994 and is now second only to the Financial Times in
financial services advertising receipts. The success of the Financial
Times’ Saturday edition - the paper’s best-selling issue - is in part
down to its personal finance section, FT Money.
But perhaps the real change looming on the horizon is the rise of the
’one-to-one’ relationship, with telephone banking revolutionising the
way in which business is transacted. In its report, Planning for Social
Change, the Henley Centre predicts that telephone transactions for
personal finance will rise from about 5 per cent at present to 20 per
cent by the end of 2000. Quite clearly, the consumer is more prepared to
accept new ways of doing business than was first thought - indeed First
Direct customers have been found to be the group most likely to use the
This change of emphasis is reflected in the increased use of DRTV.
Although still regarded in some circles as an inferior branding tool,
the proportion of direct response advertising used by the financial
service industry has more than doubled to 40 per cent since 1996. Steve
Gapper of Sun Life Canada, who sits on the Direct Marketing
Association’s financial services council, believes DRTV, which is the
driving force behind these figures, will continue to grow rapidly. ’It’s
been found to be cost-effective and, with the fragmenting TV market, I
think the industry will continue to look on it as a good way of reaching
those audiences at a cheap rate.’
More importantly, it is a means of collecting data on the customer,
which can subsequently be used to open a dialogue with that person.
Which is where the internet comes in. The consensus is that a
combination of lack of time and the rapidly increasing penetration rate
of the internet in homes and offices will fuel demand for online
information and transactions.
The Financial Times site, FT.com, for example, has become the highest
earning website in the UK in terms of web advertising revenues.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times’s personal finance site, FTQuicken.com,
is registering an impressive one million visits a month. Visitors can
browse the editorial sections and then go directly to branded sites to
buy the products mentioned.
But even if the internet is the most direct method of reaching the
consumer, many companies are reluctant to dispense with traditional
media and migrate to the internet. Most companies do have a website but
not all of them are able to fully integrate their internet systems with
their traditional communications system.
Mike Cornwell, managing partner of GGT Direct, which has a number of
financial services clients, thinks this attitude can be attributed to
short-termism in financial services companies. Managers are all too
often concerned with meeting today’s targets rather than planning for
’No-one is prepared to bite the corporate bullet and invest in a big way
in this medium and get the right systems,’ Cornwell says. ’They should
be doing it now, while the volumes are still relatively low and before
it is too late.’
TOP TEN FINANCIAL SERVICES ADVERTISERS (Dec ’97- Nov ’98)
RANK ADVERTISTER TOTAL PRESS CINEMA
(pounds) (pounds) (pounds)
165,735,181 59,848,635 1,346,506
1 Barclaycard 20,193,436 4,696,068 0
2 Abbey National 19,162,746 5,796,627 406,970
3 Direct Line Insurance 19,066,195 5,064,677 0
4 Barclays Bank 17,557,984 5,258,190 939,536
5 Nationwide Building Society 16,552,075 4,030,903 0
6 Alliance & Leicester 16,427,596 11,023,118 0
7 Axa Sunlife Asset Management 16,054,192 9,545,309 0
8 Prudential 13,866,316 6,202,563 0
9 Halifax 13,731,647 5,146,547 0
10 American Express Europe 13,122,994 3,084,633 0
RANK ADVERTISTER RADIO OUTOODR TELEVISION
(pounds) (pounds) (pounds)
7,913,433 14,273,903 82,352,704
1 Barclaycard 526,173 894,450 14,076,745
2 Abbey National 295,255 449,789 12,214,105
3 Direct Line Insurance 137,733 2,456,659 11,407,126
4 Barclays Bank 1,792,914 6,035,870 3,531,474
5 Nationwide Building Society 1,060,756 0 11,460,416
6 Alliance & Leicester 93,502 394,718 4,916,258
7 Axa Sunlife Asset Management 1,822 0 6,507,061
8 Prudential 3,250,725 1,180,933 3,232,095
9 Halifax 586,198 127,088 7,871,814
10 American Express Europe 168,355 2,734,396 7,135,610
FINANCIAL ADVERTISING, NATIONAL PRESS (Dec ’97-Nov ’98)
Rank Newspaper Total
1 Financial Times 45,424,993
2 The Mail on Sunday 30,764,562
3 The Daily Telegraph 25,428,295
4 Daily Mail 22,445,410
5 The Express 16,453,309
6 The Sunday Times 15,373,097
7 The Times 14,254,284
8 The Sun 11,327,634
9 The Express on Sunday 10,096,625
10 The Mirror 9,725,601
11 The Sunday Telegraph 9,046,381
12 The Guardian 7,035,556
13 News of the World 5,246,896
14 The Observer 5,013,454
15 The Independent 4,960,678
16 Sunday Mirror 3,747,929
17 The Independent on Sunday 3,288,608
18 Daily Star 2,645,781
19 Sunday People 2,199,175
20 Sunday Business* 330,648
*From relaunch only.
FINANCIAL ADVERTISING, SPECIALIST TITLES (Dec ’97-
Rank Title Total
1 Investors Chronicle 2,056,770
2 Moneywise 1,584,656
3 Money Observer 990,715
4 What Investment 983,044
5 Personal Finance 628,267
6 Public Finance 43,050