Halifax’s pounds 28m review puts Bates UK on alert

The Halifax has put its pounds 28 million above-the-line account up for pitch, threatening Bates UK’s 12-year hold on the account.

The Halifax has put its pounds 28 million above-the-line account up

for pitch, threatening Bates UK’s 12-year hold on the account.



The former building society turned bank has asked the agency to compete

with three other shops - which are yet to be named - for the

business.



A split with the UK’s biggest mortgage lender would be a bitter blow for

Bates, famous for its spectacular TV commercials, including the famous

’human house’, and for devising the ’Get a little X-tra help’ line.



Agency Insight has been retained to co-ordinate the pitch, which the

Halifax claims is part of a regular review of its agency relationships.

A result is expected by early September. Zenith’s handling of the media

account is unaffected.



However, industry sources believe that the future of the account has

been jeopardised by Bates’ failure to come up with new work to replace

existing advertising which some Halifax senior executives believe is

old-fashioned and out of keeping with its image since its conversion to

a bank three years ago.



The Halifax is understood to be keeping the identities of the competing

agencies secret because some have conflicting financial business.



The loss of the Halifax, which ranks alongside the Royal Mail and B&Q as

one of Bates’ biggest accounts, would put a huge dent in the agency’s

recovery programme being masterminded by Toby Hoare, who was appointed

group chief executive at the end of last year.



It would effectively cancel out the agency’s recent wins, including DFS,

the furniture retailer (pounds 20 million), Hoover (pounds 5 million)

and Emap’s travel websites (pounds 4 million).



Hoare said: ’This is disappointing because we have done nothing wrong

and worked hard. But I knew when I took the job that there would be

setbacks.’



Insiders say the review is a consequence of the loss of key client

relationships which began last year with the retirement of Mike

Blackburn as chief executive.



Senior management changes have broken the links between Bates and its

key supporters within the Halifax, notably Dick Spelman, the former

marketing services chief, now the chief executive of Halifax Retail

Financial Services.