Internet banks are flavour of the month at the moment as high
street banks respond to threats to their core business by launching
online banking services. In doing so they aim to counter the price and
speed advantages of new entrants such as First-e, Egg and others.
The Co-operative Bank launched its Smile internet banking service on 28
October. Is is positioned as a ’new world’ of banking, which offers a
combination of high savings rates and low borrowing rates. These
benefits are promoted across Smile’s advertising - created by Partners
BDDH - which features core messages such as: ’A current account that
pays you 4.33 per cent’ and ’outlandish rates online’.
Rival online operator First-e knocked high-street banks in its launch
campaign. Such themes are understandably absent from Smile’s ads, as
such a tactic could damage the Co-operative Bank’s own core
Smile’s product range is interesting because, unlike other internet
banks which focus on savings products, Smile promotes its current
account as central to its wide product range. This is partly because it
believes that current accounts are better suited to the internet because
of repeat traffic.
Focusing on the current account will also allow the Co-operative Bank to
expand its distribution channels beyond its relatively small branch
network - and the website is a very effective way of winning current
account business from others.
Smile’s launch campaign comprised press ads in September announcing the
start of its service, and its TV debut was a 60-second commercial on
Channel 4 on 28 October. Smile’s planning and buying agency TCS North
has also used poster and direct mail to promote the brand.
The main press and direct mail campaigns were concentrated in October
with a lull in November, probably reflecting a desire not to overload
the website - a problem that beset Egg and others.
Smile spent almost pounds 500,000 on press advertising in September,
October and December, placing a total of ten different creative
executions in mid-market publications such as The Mail on Sunday (32 per
cent of spend) and the Daily Mail (11 per cent).
Other key publications included The Daily Telegraph (15 per cent) and
The Independent (14 per cent). No popular dailies were used and only one
regional - the Evening Standard. Two-thirds of ads were sized 25x4, a
quarter were 38x6, one in ten was a full page, and all were colour.
Smile’s direct mail advertising kicked off in late October, with an
estimated spend of over pounds 400,000 in that month - all directed at
existing customers, mostly in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups. It is also
running poster campaigns on the London Underground.
Research by AC Nielsen MMS, tel: 01344-627553