Ian Schoolar, NatWest’s head of brand communication, spoke
exclusively to Campaign about the decision to hand TBWA GGT Simons
Palmer its entire pounds 50 million above- and below-the-line
Why did you call the pitch?
We wanted to look at the possibility of putting the business into one
agency. We felt we could have a greater chance of achieving brand
consistency if everything was under one roof.
Going into the pitch, we didn’t know if it was possible.
TBWA led us to believe it was. It is a logical thing to attempt,
particularly in this market, which is cluttered. Customers view NatWest
as one brand, whether they are buying mortgages, savings or
Therefore, communication to do with these should feel like it’s speaking
with one tongue.
You spoke to five agencies including the two incumbents, Bartle Bogle
Hegarty and Ammirati Puris Lintas. What did TBWA have that the others
We found the agency had a strength across the board.
It also had a greater strength in direct marketing than some of the
other shops. We judged it to have the best strategic and logistical
capabilities to implement our new marketing programme. It was able to
show us this commonality could be achieved within our large,
How did GGT’s merger with TBWA Simons Palmer affect the outcome?
The pitch originally started with GGT. The merger came as this was in
progress. We looked at it as an opportunity. It gave the agency more
Will TBWA take over the entire business immediately?
It’s not going to happen on day one. There will be a lengthy transition
period with new work appearing in 1999. For now, TBWA will be
concentrating on brand strategy development work which will proceed to a
new style of communication. But there is work in the pipeline to process
as well. The intention is to move everything into one place. However, it
will take time and we may keep some agencies for the time being, but
that hasn’t been worked out yet.
How much is the account worth? Figures of pounds 80 million have been
mooted this week.
We didn’t quibble with the original pounds 50 million reported by
It’s difficult to split but we spend approximately pounds 25 million
above the line and about the same below the line on direct marketing,
brochures and point of sale.
Are you scared of putting all your eggs in one basket?
No, I think there’s a challenge to make it work. As Martin Gray
(NatWest’s chief executive) said at the weekend: ’It is a jungle out
there.’ It’s an increasingly competitive market with other financial
services companies targeting our customers. If we fragment, we dilute
This pitch was all about strategy and logistics. Was TBWA’s creative
output a factor in your decision?
Trevor Beattie (the TBWA executive creative director) was in the
We had to have an idea of the stuff they could produce from an
advertising point of view. So yes, we needed reassurance from their
Did NatWest dislike BBH’s Cannings soap-opera ads? Was that why the
agency lost the business?
No, it was a very good start and it was getting better with each film we
did. We under-invested in it and didn’t allow it to flourish in the way
it should have done.
In reality, did BBH and APL have a chance? Did you just want a fresh
start with a new agency?
No, everyone had exactly the same brief and we were judging people’s
responses to that brief with an open mind.
Why was the pitch-list secret?
It was partly at the request of the agencies pitching.
Due to conflicting business?
Er, I took that to be the case.
So, did the final list comprise M&C Saatchi, Rainey Kelly Campbell
Roalfe, TBWA, APL and BBH?
NatWest’s procurement department has been deeply involved on the
Was the decision to appoint one agency really about costs?
The decision is to do with finding a defined brand strategy and making
sure everything we do continues to build brand equity. That’s where
integration with the strategy comes in. But yes, as a consequence of
that we should be able to do it at a lesser cost.
What happens to media?
We already have a one-stop shop with media. We are perfectly happy with
What would you say to BBH and APL?
The work of both agencies has been very good. And the work APL is
running is very, very good indeed. I can understand these agencies would
feel disappointed and I am at pains to say the decision was not about
the work produced. It was about a different way of operating; we were
looking towards the future.
THE CHANGING FACES OF THE NATWEST BANK.
1987: NatWest drops FCB, the agency that dreamed up the famous ’action
bank’ positioning, and adds WCRS and Leo Burnett to its fluid roster
that also includes J. Walter Thompson and CDP. Ads during the late 80s
include a Harry Enfield execution and ’pinball wizard’, in which a cash
dispenser is transformed into a pinball machine
October 1990: BBH wins the centralised pounds 20 million above-the-line
business, beating CDP, JWT and Saatchis in a pitch
April 1991: BBH’s first work (below) drops the ’action bank’ tag for the
new line: ’We’re here to make your life easier.’ It focuses on employees
of the bank, including a grocer’s son
March 1992: BBH’s next work (below) targets small businesses, who had
expressed outrage at the ’grocer’s son’ ad, which came at a time of high
interest rates for small businesses
February 1993: Three new ads (below) continue the ’makes life easier’
December 1994: Raoul Pinnell joins NatWest as its new marketing director
and drops the ’makes life easier’ campaign amid a shift away from TV
advertising to integrated communications
June 1995: New TV ads (above) carry a new slogan: ’NatWest. More than
just a bank.’
January 1996: BBH loses the print advertising assignment to Ammirati
Puris Lintas after a statutory six-month review
July 1996: BBH unveils its soap-opera-style ’Canning family’ TV campaign
(bottom), intended to serve as an umbrella for all future ads
May 1998: NatWest calls a pitch for its entire above- and below-the-line
June 1998: TBWA triumphs after a pitch against BBH, APL Rainey Kelly and