The RAB Aerial Awards 2006: Radio Advertiser of the Year - Nationwide Building Society

Advertising for financial services is an area that tends to be seen in a negative light - too many brands saying the same thing, a cluttered market, too few distinctive brands, too little communication that really speaks to the customer.

On radio, the typical weak financial ad is probably one with reams of information read out over a music bed, or 25 seconds of audio whimsy arbitrarily bolted on to a brand name.

In the past two years, Nationwide has found a way to speak to consumers on radio that avoids both traps, and which has been so successful it has seen Nationwide's spend on the medium rise from about £300,000 in 2003 to more than £5 million in 2005.

Stephen Donovan, the business director at Radioville, puts the transformation down to good strategic analysis. "The key is to simplify," he says. "Nationwide was prepared to roll up its sleeves and ask itself: 'What are we really trying to say?' That is what leads to the focus of the work."

In the radio ads, two characters bring Nationwide's benefits to life; one plays the customer, the other plays a bank employee who embodies the worst customer-service attributes. In this way, Donovan says, the Nationwide is presented as "the antidote".

Peter Gandolfi, the head of brand marketing at Nationwide, is self-effacing about the way the company has developed such a confident, highly rated way of speaking to consumers. "Explaining the benefits of our mutuality to anyone on the high street is incredibly difficult, but as soon as we heard what Radioville had come up with, we knew immediately they had cracked it."

Unusually, the success of the radio approach led Nationwide to rebrief the TV campaign using the same platform, with the part of the nightmare bank employee played by Mark Benton.

The radio campaigns are highly rated by the Radio Advertising Bureau.

Andrew Ingram, who runs the RAB's Aerials Foundation, says: "It's very unusual to see a financial brand running radio ads that not only carry such clear and persuasive product benefits, but are also highly entertaining."

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