MEDIA: STRATEGY OF THE WEEK - Does Abbey's revolutionary fire need more fuel?

For all Abbey's claims to be novel, its media strategy so far isn't, Emma Barns says.

"Banking isn't good enough. Yet" the press ads claimed but the rebranded, revamped Abbey, revealed at the end of September, aims to change this.

Tracy Darwen, the managing director of Naked Communications, which has been brought in to add innovation and stretch the Abbey creative across different channels, says: "The principle of the campaign is to turn banking on its head and is about breaking convention. Other banks add complexity but Abbey is stripping down to become more accessible."

This is the idea that MindShare, Abbey's planning and buying agency, built its strategy on. Malcolm Russell, the business director at MindShare, says: "We looked at financial communications and saw that they make money more confusing. They are intrusive and, ultimately, boring."

Abbey's strategy is split into two phases this year. The first stage, with national TV and press ads, created by TBWA\London, acknowledges that banks get in the way, preventing customers having a relationship with their money.

The 40-second TV ad, launched on national terrestrial channels on 24 September, showed a crane descending on to a parade of shops and ripping a bank from its foundations. The bank is tipped upside down and replaced, accompanied by a voiceover announcing: "Something good is happening to banking."

The ad also introduced the strapline "Start a beautiful thing with money" and the four new Abbey colours, developed by Wolff Olins. Press ads supporting the TV were positioned in news and finance sections across all national papers. They used simple straplines to reflect Abbey's new philosophy of clarity.

The use of traditional media channels in this phase casts doubt on MindShare's intentions to create an unconventional media strategy but Russell argues that, with Abbey's 18 million customers, the rebrand needs to achieve mass awareness before it can begin to get people more involved.

"There is definitely a place for traditional communications," he says.

Darwen agrees. "It is important to first establish the thought and then get people involved in it," she says.

The first stage also includes a national radio campaign with a 50-second spot that broke on 6 October. An online campaign, developed by Band & Brown Communications, TBWA\GGT and mOne, will break in the next few weeks and will include a "jargon buster" to help customers understand financial language.

Abbey's second phase is about making tangible changes to product offerings.

For example, Abbey's new catalogue, that includes all its account information, will be distributed via a partnership with Virgin Trains, negotiated by MindShare. "When you're sitting on the train, it's the perfect occasion to get to grips with your finances," Russell says.

Other product-led communications will occur throughout the year all aiming to be tangible, innovative and timely.

Naked Communications will be adding things to the mix. Its input will range from making the experience in the branch more interesting to tailoring Abbey's message to new customers. Darwen promises that we will see communications "from viral to partnerships moving on to ambient and guerrilla tactics".

Angus Porter, the customer director at Abbey, says: "Simplifying product ranges and communications is merely the beginning."

But so far it is hard to find evidence that the media approach has done much to turn financial communication on its head.

Client: Abbey

Media: TV, national press, online, PR and leaflets

Agencies: TBWA\London, Wolff Olins, MindShare, Naked Communications,

Band & Brown, TBWA\GGT, mOne

Media idea: Strip out complexity to make banking seem more accessible

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