Media: Strategy of the Week - Thomas Cook foreign exchange targets masses

The company wants to put pressure on its main rival, the Post Office. Thomas Cook doesn't just sell holidays. It's also one of the leading players in the lucrative foreign currency exchange market. A market that remains buoyant thanks to the UK's continued ambivalence towards the euro.

It's been a trusted brand in foreign exchange but is under pressure because pesky rival players, such as the Post Office, have decided to attack it on price rather than positioning. Last year, the Post Office introduced its 0 per cent commission strategy while Thomas Cook stuck to charging commission as well as making money from the exchange rates themselves.

Thomas Cook has now reviewed that strategy and introduced its own zero-commission offering. To communicate the service, it is using radio, press and outdoor with creative from TBWA\London.

The creative features images of foreign bank notes that have been decorated with hand-drawn "doodles" on euro, US and Australian bank notes. The agency hopes that the irreverent humour of the campaign will cut through ads from rivals.

The challenge for Thomas Cook's media agency, BLM Media, was to reach as many of the UK's summer travellers as possible and combine this with a "call to action" effect to drive them straight into Thomas Cook exchanges.

Press and radio will run throughout the summer, upweighted in key weeks of increased holiday travel. Radio will comprise heavy use of local stations in regions including London, Scotland and the North-East combined with limited national coverage. This is mainly through spots around the commercial station's Newslink service.

The national press activity will appear in both broadsheets and tabloid newspapers, a different strategy from current campaigns for Thomas Cook Holidays, which do not run in broadsheets.

Daniel Solomons, the group head at BLM Media, says: "It's not quite the same mass market as for Thomas Cook Holidays. This has to have wider appeal."

However, the outdoor element of the campaign is the most intriguing.

Solomons says that TV was discussed at the early stages of planning the activity but that the agency pushed for using outdoor to create the same "broadcast" effect because this would enable Thomas Cook to get its message out on the street near stores.

A national outdoor campaign, bought through the poster specialist Poster Publicity, broke this week. Backed by a spend of £600,000, this will mix 48-sheet locations with a series of six-sheets that will be placed in areas where there are both Thomas Cook and Post Office foreign exchange services. It's a blatant bid to directly target the Post Office's share of the market.

"We are using outdoor very tactically. I think it will work, especially coupled with the strong creative," Solomons argues.

The campaign will run through the summer, ending in August. Thomas Cook's aim is an ambitious one. "Last year, the Post Office went in with 0 per cent, where Thomas Cook took the high ground. But this year it's coming in and saying 'we're just as good on price' to win back traditional customers," Solomons says.

The media strategy for the Thomas Cook campaign is a brave one, eschewing television for more localised, tactical activity that must still reach a mass audience. Coupled with the creative and a strong offer, it has a good chance of succeeding.

Client: Thomas Cook (foreign exchange)

Agencies: BLM Media, TBWA\London, Poster Publicity Media used Radio,

press, outdoor

Media idea: Use outdoor to reach a mass audience and drive them into

Thomas Cook exchanges

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