Campaigns: Finance - Halifax delivers on ISA promise

Campaign: Halifax ISA Promise
Client: Halifax
PR team: In-house
Timescale: September 2010 - ongoing
Budget: £5,000

The UK savings industry relies on archaic, paper-based systems to transfer money between ISA providers, and the problems this has caused have been the focus of media attention for several years.

Halifax has invested in improving its own ISA switching procedures and campaigned for the industry to follow suit.

The PR team wanted a campaign that would promote the work Halifax has done to resolve savers' complaints and drive wider change within the UK ISA market.

Objectives

- To raise Halifax's profile

- To generate ISA switchers with the launch of a 'best buy' ISA account

- To encourage customers to open an ISA now rather than wait until the end of the tax year

- To position Halifax as a consumer champion.

Strategy and plan

Halifax created an ISA promise that pledged to pay interest from the first day of receiving a completed transfer application, as opposed to waiting for the current provider to switch the account.

It also promised to keep customers informed of their ISA's interest rate and when a reward or fixed-rate cash ISA was coming to an end.

The team put together a week-by-week plan. This started with a press release announcing a best buy ISA account, to encourage coverage of ISA issues outside of the traditional ISA season at the financial year-end. The team then set up an exclusive interview with The Times to coincide with the wider launch of the Halifax ISA promise.

The PR team also wrote to all national newspaper personal finance agony aunts, to brief them on the ISA promise.

An ISA podcast was set up with Moneysupermarket.com including an interview with Halifax's director of savings.

Next, the team held media teach-in sessions, to allow journalists to talk directly to Halifax's head of ISAs.

An ISA microsite was launched on the Halifax website, and letters were sent to the Treasury Select Committee and other relevant MPs showing how Halifax was leading the industry on ISAs.

The media campaign was further backed up with consumer research and with an ISA map, put together by the economics team looking at the varying ISA balances across the UK by age, gender and region.

Measurement and evaluation

The ISA promise release generated 12 pieces of national coverage and 23 pieces online, including on the BBC website, Moneysupermarket.com and FT.com.

The wider campaign generated the highest volume of positive media coverage Halifax had achieved since August 2008.

Results

Google searches for 'Halifax ISA' increased by 50 per cent. The new ISA Direct Reward account achieved 3,000 transfers in a single day and doubled sales forecasts.

SECOND OPINION - Cameron Grant, Director and co-founder, 3x1 Public Relations

This was an interesting campaign from Halifax in an attempt to address the OFT report into the ISA transfer market.

As the UK's largest savings provider, Halifax has a duty of care to its customers to be transparent and straightforward with its communication process - this campaign adopted that approach.

In today's austere times, ISAs offer savers tax-free status, but many people are wary of the process, ongoing access to their savings and applicable interest rates. I liked the fact Halifax set clear objectives with measurable goals at the outset to attempt to address these concerns.

The multi-strand campaign encompassed both traditional and online channels, and the exclusive interview with The Times set up a platform from which to launch national debate.

The use of agony aunts offering them a right to question the Halifax ISA promise and to forward any outstanding ISA complaints was a clever idea, especially since none were forthcoming - a good marker for the future.

All in all, it was a sound lowbudget campaign, although I question with all the activity, research and use of different Halifax teams if the 'human' cost came under the £5,000 budget.

From a PR perspective, it got Halifax into the headlines with positive coverage and, judging by the record take-up, the results clearly hit a chord with customers. A good case study to demonstrate the benefits of effective PR.

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