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
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
’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
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
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
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
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.’