Euro RSCG on alert as Abbey National reviews account

LONDON - Abbey National is reviewing its £17m advertising account and is seeing presentations from four agencies alongside its incumbent, Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper.

The review is being handled by Abbey National's chief executive, Luqman Arnold, who appears to have side-stepped his marketing department and is instead contacting agencies directly.

Arnold, who replaced Ian Harley when he was ousted last May, has given the agencies less than a week to prepare submissions.

Euro RSCG has held the account for nine years. In that time, Abbey National -- the UK's sixth-largest bank -- has survived five marketing directors. None of the original marketing team involved in the various appointments of Euro RSCG remain in their roles.

The review follows last month's announcement by Abbey National of a loss in 2002 of almost £1bn -- one of the biggest losses in UK banking history. The poor performance was a dramatic turnaround from the £1.47bn profit in 2001.

Gary Hockey-Morley, the Abbey National director of product strategy, said the review had been called after the bank's decision to concentrate on core UK personal finance services. He said: "We are reviewing our marketing after our recent announcement on strategy."

Last month, Abbey National axed its top marketing position. Janet Connor, the retail marketing director, was moved sideways to the customer sales division.

Connor had been responsible for calling a review of the bank's creative account, which resulted in the incumbent, Euro RSCG, being reappointed in October 2001.

She was also behind the move to recruit the former EastEnders star Martin Kemp to be the face of its new ads, which launched in January.

While it has retained the "Because life's complicated enough" strapline, Abbey National's advertising strategy has lacked consistency.

After axing the comedian Alan Davies last year, it followed the route of using real people in its ads, rather than celebrities. However, its latest work has seen a return to the celebrity strategy alongside real people.

In December, the bank appointed the brand consultancy Wolff Olins to carry out a strategic review. As part of the process, the agency was asked to draw up a list of recommendations on a range of agencies including advertising and public relations.

Abbey National is reported to be looking outside the company to recruit a chief marketer, who will be in charge of all marketing, branding, product strategy and customer insights for the bank.

No one at Euro RSCG was available for comment.

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