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HSBC tops financial advertising effectiveness league

LONDON – HSBC has topped the list of most effective financial advertisers, according to a survey, beating out much higher-spending institutions Norwich Union, HBOS and Barclays.

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The report, 'Marketing Financial Services to the Wealthy: The Nike Factor' from financial market research firm Tulip, highlights the waste of much financial media expenditure.

The financial sector is the second highest spender after the retail sector on television and press media, with a spend of around £800m in 2002.

This new report looks at the effectiveness of the half-a-billion-plus media expenditure of 37 major financial brands in 2001-2002.

The biggest spender was Norwich Union, which spent £36m, followed by HBOS, formerly the Halifax, on £33m, Barclays Bank on £31.1m and Nationwide on £29m.

However, despite being the biggest spenders, the big three all came near the bottom of the top 10 with Norwich Union taking last place, followed by Nationwide, Barclays and HBOS.

Norwich Union switched its advertising for its main direct brand to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO late last year and its first work was launched last month. The business had previously been handled by a unit of McCann-Erickson.

With its advertising at the time created by Lowe, HSBC spent £21.8m to take the top spot, followed by Lloyds TSB in second place, spending £22.4m, and Abbey National in third, spending £26.7m.

HSBC spent one-third less than Norwich Union with £13m, and gained 60% awareness, which works out at 20% higher ad awareness for 30% less media spend.

The report highlighted the recent call made by Hamish Pringle, director general of the IPA, for greater accountability in media spending. Pringle urged media buying agencies to focus more on return on [media] investment. "The issue of accountability has been live with advertisers for a long time and some agencies have done well, but only a handful of media agencies are geared up to such a culture shift."

The survey also checked financial advertising's ability to persuade. Here Halifax topped the table, but it spent £33m compared with Scottish Widows in second place, spending £17m. HSBC on £21.8m came third, followed by Egg, spending £20.5m, with Abbey National spending £26.7m to come fifth.

The figures show that HSBC and Abbey National were not only cost effective at buying visibility, but that their campaigns also work hard at persuading. Lloyds TSB and NatWest, though effective in gaining visibility, did not rank in the top five for persuasion.

Tulip awarded the top place to HSBC, although the report did also identify some highly effective low-spending campaigns. In joint second place, Tulip nominated Scottish Widows and Abbey National, both of which had highly visible and persuasive campaigns.

John Clemens, managing partner at Tulip, said: "The IPA is rightly calling on media agencies to focus on the effectiveness of their campaigns. This research shows that media money can be well or badly spent. There may be objectives over and above having advertising that is visible and persuasive: but no advertising can work unless it is noticed and does interest and attract the target market."

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