It obviously wasn’t an easy decision. More than a year after
appointing Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and nearly 30 years after dismissing
him as anachronistic, the Prudential has resurrected the ’man from the
Perhaps it was inevitable - despite successive campaigns, the ’man from
the Pru’ continued to rear his 48-year-old head in research groups and
AMV has crafted a series of beautiful films, written by David Abbott,
art directed by Ron Brown and directed by Hugh Johnson through RSA Films
(Campaign, last week). The films seek to introduce a wistful quality to
the Prudential’s advertising and distance the brand from the more
practical and direct tone of voice delivered by Mustoe Merriman Herring
Levy’s ’talk to Prudence’ campaign.
What took ’the man from the Pru’ so long to stage his comeback? AMV was
handed the account in January 1996 without a pitch, so there was
obviously no campaign in the pipeline. But still, a whole year? Andrew
Williams, the advertising manager of the Prudential, says: ’We were very
diligent in making sure we were not pursuing a red herring.’
Insiders suggest, however, that a campaign was ready to run in mid-1996,
but was vetoed by Paul McGrane, who was appointed marketing director in
The result is the new pounds 30 million version of ’the man from the
Pru’, promoted from doorstep rep to chief executive. Williams explains:
’We decided to cast him (or her) as the executive responsible for the
products and services we sell. A personal endorsement from an executive
Convinced that it was possible to modernise the image but retain the
much-needed association with trust and traditional values, AMV developed
this idea, with the result that the current ’man from the Pru’ is very
much a 90s creation.
The campaign has no doubt been greeted with some cynicism at the
Prudential’s previous two agencies - Mustoe Merriman, September 1994 to
January 1996, and WCRS, 1986 to September 1994 - who were briefed to rid
the client of its stuffy image.
WCRS’s answer, after a couple of false starts, was the ’I want to be’
campaign, which took a humorous look at the incompatible ambitions of a
thirtysomething couple. When its turn came, Mustoe Merriman invented
’talk to Prudence’, which sought to mesh the company’s image with its
logo, a stylised drawing of Prudence, one of the four cardinal
As Williams points out: ’’I want to be’ was popular but not branded, and
’talk to Prudence’ was branded but not popular.’
When WCRS and the Prudential could not reconcile their visions of the
campaign, the account was put up for pitch and Mustoe Merriman beat AMV
to win the business in 1994.
This appointment coincided with a period of upheaval at the
In May 1995, Sir Peter Davis took over as group chief executive and
immediately merged the UK company’s three separate divisions - central
communications, independent financial advisers and direct sales.
The merger made sense but the new central marketing department had no
leader, and the Prudential was also feeling the effects of a series of
A scandal surrounding the mis-selling of personal pensions broke in the
early 90s and more financial problems, including the collapse of the
Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the Maxwell pension fraud and
small businesses going bust, combined to make consumers very
The Prudential didn’t emerge unscathed from this era and, without a
cohesive marketing strategy, was struggling to find a way out, while
rivals such as Allied Dunbar and Sun Alliance were coming up with
There was also the problem of a vastly expanded range of services which
needed to be communicated coherently in a crowded, confusing and
essentially dull market, where brand image and awareness is 90 per cent
of the battle.
When AMV lost its pitch for the combined Leeds/Halifax account it was
free to rekindle its relationship with Davis, who was the marketing
director of Sainsbury’s when the agency was awarded the account 16 years
After more upheavals at the Prudential, the marketing department was
reconstituted, with experienced hands including Paul McGrane, a former
Carlton Communications chief, and Andrew Williams, who moved over from
Saatchi and Saatchi.
The Prudential desperately needs to rebuild bridges with its customers
and Williams claims it has learnt from past mistakes.
Although the new strategy looks like a last resort, the stunning
commercials, backed by a tripled ad budget and hard-hitting press and
poster work, make for a campaign that has the hallmarks of success. But
will it sustain its momentum?
Williams says it will: ’We tried to get away from him, but we have gone
back to the ’man from the Pru’ because it is right.’