FINANCE: MEDIA MONEY - As new TV, print and internet options emerge, the media landscape for financial services has grown increasingly complex. Julian Lee finds marketers willing to experiment

For a number of years, the financial services sector has pursued the strategy of painting a big picture with television brand campaigns, while the details are filled in with press and below-the-line activity. The strategy went unchallenged, mainly because it worked.

For a number of years, the financial services sector has pursued

the strategy of painting a big picture with television brand campaigns,

while the details are filled in with press and below-the-line activity.

The strategy went unchallenged, mainly because it worked.

But, as the media landscape changes and increasing numbers of consumers

are won over by one of the many new financial services offerings, media

planners and strategists must confront the possibility that traditional

routes are outmoded.

As well as a few big financial services brands, there are a number of

specialist niche operators, with more and more new entrants making

inroads into the market share of the established players.

In the coming months, the pressure on media strategists will be kept up,

as PEPs and TESSAs - which have driven the sector’s growth in the past

five years - are phased out and ISAs are introduced.

The media strategist, MSc, recently won the Bradford & Bingley account,

prompting its managing director, Louise Jones, to take a fresh look at

financial services. She says: ’Financial services is more cluttered than

any other sector. It’s incredibly difficult to get your message across.

As a consumer, it must be rather like going to a football match with

30,000 people all screaming the same message at you.’

Consumers are looking for more information and marketers want a more

direct route through the clutter. They no longer operate in a market

dominated by one medium. Television is the largest single vehicle for

financial services marketing but its influence is declining.

Press, which is suited to financial services advertising because it is

an information-rich environment, comes a close second to TV. The sector

is dynamic, with launches and relaunches happening on a regular basis,

the latest being the relaunch of The Observer’s personal finance section

earlier last month as a standalone tabloid, Cash.

Although still something of an unknown quantity, the internet is likely,

over time, to make the consumer-brand relationship more personal and

personal finance brands are in a strong position to make the most of

this opportunity.

For those in the business of planning a campaign, it is a challenging

scenario. The community is divided into two camps; those that believe a

TV-led campaign is still the best means of communicating a company’s

brand values and those who advocate a more personalised approach.

Meanwhile, the client community is anxiously looking to the media

specialists for a solution.

Keith Moor, the advertising and media manager of Abbey National, is

critical of the existing media planning tools and would like to see more

precise measurements introduced. ’Planning will become increasingly

critical in the near future, when the market fragments more,’ he says.

’The challenge for us will be knowing where to find our audience - will

they follow programmes rather than channels, for example? If you can

answer that then you’ll have a distinct advantage over your


A firm advocate of TV - Abbey National spends more than half its ad

budget of pounds 19.1 million on it - Moor is prepared to shift his

expenditure if there is evidence that his customers are focusing on

other media. For the time being, however, he is concentrating on TV.

Halifax, which spends pounds 7.8 million on TV through Zenith, is also

committed to the medium. As Zenith’s managing partner, Rosemary Gorman,

puts it, the aim is to ’win the hearts and minds of consumers’. She

adds: ’Consumers clearly buy into brands before they buy into products

and that is why the brand is terribly important.’

But research shows that, despite the pounds 166 million spent

above-the-line by financial services providers, consumers remain

blissfully unaware of some brands and few of them relish the prospect of

shopping around, even though they should, given the increasing

importance of personal finance as the welfare state retreats.

There is, indeed, little point in spending huge sums on traditional

media, believes the managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash, Tony

Regan. ’So many companies are so preoccupied with getting to the top of

the ’awareness heap’ that they fail to see that things are changing.

Advertising on that scale is a defensive strategy,’ he says.

He has a point. Look at the relative success of new entrants such as

Virgin and Goldfish. They have both employed an aggressive marketing

proposition and used media schedules with a twist. Goldfish, for

example, recognised that women are now just as likely to wear the

financial trousers as their male partners. Accordingly it used women’s

magazines to reach them.

Virgin entered the market trumpeting its ’woolly jumper’ brand

attributes at a time when PEPs were on the ascendant. To highlight its

straight-talking personality it devised and booked colour press ads in

large formats in contrast to its rivals’ black-and-white executions.

According to research conducted by MORI Financial Services, 12 per cent

of all new credit cards issued between July and December 1997 went to

Goldfish, while the market leader, Barclaycard - which has a pounds 20

million-plus media budget - accounted for only 13 per cent. In the same

poll MBNA, which does not advertise above the line but uses aggressive

editorial price comparisons and direct mail, was found to have netted a

10 per cent share of new cards issued. Brand awareness is just not

enough, Regan argues.

’Information is taking over from communications. It’s not about the push

mentality any more. Companies have to be more skilful in making

information about products available.’

The rising demand for information has seen a boom in the number of

specialist titles devoted to guiding the consumer through the financial

services minefield. Titles such as the successful Bloomberg Money -

launched a year ago - are testimony to this. Investors Chronicle has

seen its circulation increase by 5 per cent year on year and the profile

of its readers has broadened from the well-heeled armchair investor to

include younger consumers.

Time Warner is thinking of launching Money Magazine, a weekly

mass-market guide to the personal finance market, in the UK.

National newspapers have joined in with their own standalone personal

finance sections. Responses to press ads are generally considered to be

stronger than ones generated through TV - a fact borne out by the

strength of The Mail on Sunday’s Financial Mail section, which was

launched in 1994 and is now second only to the Financial Times in

financial services advertising receipts. The success of the Financial

Times’ Saturday edition - the paper’s best-selling issue - is in part

down to its personal finance section, FT Money.

But perhaps the real change looming on the horizon is the rise of the

’one-to-one’ relationship, with telephone banking revolutionising the

way in which business is transacted. In its report, Planning for Social

Change, the Henley Centre predicts that telephone transactions for

personal finance will rise from about 5 per cent at present to 20 per

cent by the end of 2000. Quite clearly, the consumer is more prepared to

accept new ways of doing business than was first thought - indeed First

Direct customers have been found to be the group most likely to use the


This change of emphasis is reflected in the increased use of DRTV.

Although still regarded in some circles as an inferior branding tool,

the proportion of direct response advertising used by the financial

service industry has more than doubled to 40 per cent since 1996. Steve

Gapper of Sun Life Canada, who sits on the Direct Marketing

Association’s financial services council, believes DRTV, which is the

driving force behind these figures, will continue to grow rapidly. ’It’s

been found to be cost-effective and, with the fragmenting TV market, I

think the industry will continue to look on it as a good way of reaching

those audiences at a cheap rate.’

More importantly, it is a means of collecting data on the customer,

which can subsequently be used to open a dialogue with that person.

Which is where the internet comes in. The consensus is that a

combination of lack of time and the rapidly increasing penetration rate

of the internet in homes and offices will fuel demand for online

information and transactions.

The Financial Times site,, for example, has become the highest

earning website in the UK in terms of web advertising revenues.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times’s personal finance site,,

is registering an impressive one million visits a month. Visitors can

browse the editorial sections and then go directly to branded sites to

buy the products mentioned.

But even if the internet is the most direct method of reaching the

consumer, many companies are reluctant to dispense with traditional

media and migrate to the internet. Most companies do have a website but

not all of them are able to fully integrate their internet systems with

their traditional communications system.

Mike Cornwell, managing partner of GGT Direct, which has a number of

financial services clients, thinks this attitude can be attributed to

short-termism in financial services companies. Managers are all too

often concerned with meeting today’s targets rather than planning for


’No-one is prepared to bite the corporate bullet and invest in a big way

in this medium and get the right systems,’ Cornwell says. ’They should

be doing it now, while the volumes are still relatively low and before

it is too late.’


RANK ADVERTISTER                         TOTAL        PRESS       CINEMA

                                      (pounds)     (pounds)     (pounds)

                                   165,735,181   59,848,635    1,346,506

1    Barclaycard                    20,193,436    4,696,068            0

2    Abbey National                 19,162,746    5,796,627      406,970

3    Direct Line Insurance          19,066,195    5,064,677            0

4    Barclays Bank                  17,557,984    5,258,190      939,536

5    Nationwide Building Society    16,552,075    4,030,903            0

6    Alliance & Leicester           16,427,596   11,023,118            0

7    Axa Sunlife Asset Management   16,054,192    9,545,309            0

8    Prudential                     13,866,316    6,202,563            0

9    Halifax                        13,731,647    5,146,547            0

10   American Express Europe        13,122,994    3,084,633            0


                                      (pounds)     (pounds)     (pounds)

                                     7,913,433   14,273,903   82,352,704

1    Barclaycard                       526,173      894,450   14,076,745

2    Abbey National                    295,255      449,789   12,214,105

3    Direct Line Insurance             137,733    2,456,659   11,407,126

4    Barclays Bank                   1,792,914    6,035,870    3,531,474

5    Nationwide Building Society     1,060,756            0   11,460,416

6    Alliance & Leicester               93,502      394,718    4,916,258

7    Axa Sunlife Asset Management        1,822            0    6,507,061

8    Prudential                      3,250,725    1,180,933    3,232,095

9    Halifax                           586,198      127,088    7,871,814

10   American Express Europe           168,355    2,734,396    7,135,610


Rank Newspaper                               Total



1    Financial Times                    45,424,993

2    The Mail on Sunday                 30,764,562

3    The Daily Telegraph                25,428,295

4    Daily Mail                         22,445,410

5    The Express                        16,453,309

6    The Sunday Times                   15,373,097

7    The Times                          14,254,284

8    The Sun                            11,327,634

9    The Express on Sunday              10,096,625

10   The Mirror                          9,725,601

11   The Sunday Telegraph                9,046,381

12   The Guardian                        7,035,556

13   News of the World                   5,246,896

14   The Observer                        5,013,454

15   The Independent                     4,960,678

16   Sunday Mirror                       3,747,929

17   The Independent on Sunday           3,288,608

18   Daily Star                          2,645,781

19   Sunday People                       2,199,175

20   Sunday Business*                      330,648

Source: MMS

*From relaunch only.


Nov ’98)

Rank Title                                   Total



1    Investors Chronicle                 2,056,770

2    Moneywise                           1,584,656

3    Money Observer                        990,715

4    What Investment                       983,044

5    Personal Finance                      628,267

6    Public Finance                         43,050


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus