Schoolar: why we went with TBWA

Ian Schoolar, NatWest’s head of brand communication, spoke exclusively to Campaign about the decision to hand TBWA GGT Simons Palmer its entire pounds 50 million above- and below-the-line business.

Ian Schoolar, NatWest’s head of brand communication, spoke

exclusively to Campaign about the decision to hand TBWA GGT Simons

Palmer its entire pounds 50 million above- and below-the-line


Why did you call the pitch?

We wanted to look at the possibility of putting the business into one

agency. We felt we could have a greater chance of achieving brand

consistency if everything was under one roof.

Going into the pitch, we didn’t know if it was possible.

TBWA led us to believe it was. It is a logical thing to attempt,

particularly in this market, which is cluttered. Customers view NatWest

as one brand, whether they are buying mortgages, savings or


Therefore, communication to do with these should feel like it’s speaking

with one tongue.

You spoke to five agencies including the two incumbents, Bartle Bogle

Hegarty and Ammirati Puris Lintas. What did TBWA have that the others


We found the agency had a strength across the board.

It also had a greater strength in direct marketing than some of the

other shops. We judged it to have the best strategic and logistical

capabilities to implement our new marketing programme. It was able to

show us this commonality could be achieved within our large,

decentralised structure.

How did GGT’s merger with TBWA Simons Palmer affect the outcome?

The pitch originally started with GGT. The merger came as this was in

progress. We looked at it as an opportunity. It gave the agency more

critical mass.

Will TBWA take over the entire business immediately?

It’s not going to happen on day one. There will be a lengthy transition

period with new work appearing in 1999. For now, TBWA will be

concentrating on brand strategy development work which will proceed to a

new style of communication. But there is work in the pipeline to process

as well. The intention is to move everything into one place. However, it

will take time and we may keep some agencies for the time being, but

that hasn’t been worked out yet.

How much is the account worth? Figures of pounds 80 million have been

mooted this week.

We didn’t quibble with the original pounds 50 million reported by


It’s difficult to split but we spend approximately pounds 25 million

above the line and about the same below the line on direct marketing,

brochures and point of sale.

Are you scared of putting all your eggs in one basket?

No, I think there’s a challenge to make it work. As Martin Gray

(NatWest’s chief executive) said at the weekend: ’It is a jungle out

there.’ It’s an increasingly competitive market with other financial

services companies targeting our customers. If we fragment, we dilute

our efforts.

This pitch was all about strategy and logistics. Was TBWA’s creative

output a factor in your decision?

Trevor Beattie (the TBWA executive creative director) was in the


We had to have an idea of the stuff they could produce from an

advertising point of view. So yes, we needed reassurance from their


Did NatWest dislike BBH’s Cannings soap-opera ads? Was that why the

agency lost the business?

No, it was a very good start and it was getting better with each film we

did. We under-invested in it and didn’t allow it to flourish in the way

it should have done.

In reality, did BBH and APL have a chance? Did you just want a fresh

start with a new agency?

No, everyone had exactly the same brief and we were judging people’s

responses to that brief with an open mind.

Why was the pitch-list secret?

It was partly at the request of the agencies pitching.

Due to conflicting business?

Er, I took that to be the case.

So, did the final list comprise M&C Saatchi, Rainey Kelly Campbell

Roalfe, TBWA, APL and BBH?


NatWest’s procurement department has been deeply involved on the


Was the decision to appoint one agency really about costs?

The decision is to do with finding a defined brand strategy and making

sure everything we do continues to build brand equity. That’s where

integration with the strategy comes in. But yes, as a consequence of

that we should be able to do it at a lesser cost.

What happens to media?

We already have a one-stop shop with media. We are perfectly happy with


What would you say to BBH and APL?

The work of both agencies has been very good. And the work APL is

running is very, very good indeed. I can understand these agencies would

feel disappointed and I am at pains to say the decision was not about

the work produced. It was about a different way of operating; we were

looking towards the future.


1987: NatWest drops FCB, the agency that dreamed up the famous ’action

bank’ positioning, and adds WCRS and Leo Burnett to its fluid roster

that also includes J. Walter Thompson and CDP. Ads during the late 80s

include a Harry Enfield execution and ’pinball wizard’, in which a cash

dispenser is transformed into a pinball machine

October 1990: BBH wins the centralised pounds 20 million above-the-line

business, beating CDP, JWT and Saatchis in a pitch

April 1991: BBH’s first work (below) drops the ’action bank’ tag for the

new line: ’We’re here to make your life easier.’ It focuses on employees

of the bank, including a grocer’s son

March 1992: BBH’s next work (below) targets small businesses, who had

expressed outrage at the ’grocer’s son’ ad, which came at a time of high

interest rates for small businesses

February 1993: Three new ads (below) continue the ’makes life easier’


December 1994: Raoul Pinnell joins NatWest as its new marketing director

and drops the ’makes life easier’ campaign amid a shift away from TV

advertising to integrated communications

June 1995: New TV ads (above) carry a new slogan: ’NatWest. More than

just a bank.’

January 1996: BBH loses the print advertising assignment to Ammirati

Puris Lintas after a statutory six-month review

July 1996: BBH unveils its soap-opera-style ’Canning family’ TV campaign

(bottom), intended to serve as an umbrella for all future ads

May 1998: NatWest calls a pitch for its entire above- and below-the-line


June 1998: TBWA triumphs after a pitch against BBH, APL Rainey Kelly and

M&C Saatchi.