Campaign: AXA enters pre-election pensions crisisdebate

In the run-up to the general election in May, AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) charged retained agency Penrose Financial with positioning the organisation at the heart of the raging political debate about pension provision in Britain.

Campaign: AXA Pensions Manifesto Challenge Client: AXA Investment Managers PR team: Penrose Financial Timescale: February-May 2005 Budget: £30,000

Objectives

To highlight AXA IM's brand values and promote the fund manager as a significant industry player and commentator on the UK pensions debate.

To enhance AXA IM's reputation among its target audiences of pension fund trustees, investment consultants and sponsors.

Strategy and Plan

In February, Penrose Financial launched the AXA Pensions Manifesto Challenge, a competition designed to encourage new thinking on how to solve the pensions 'crisis' and, specifically, the investment shortfall of many corporate pension schemes.

With the election looming, Penrose sold-in the concept of supporting the challenge to Deborah Hargreaves, financial editor of the Financial Times. The challenge set was: 'Imagine you are a political party at the next UK election. Write a vote-winning and workable manifesto on pensions.'

Entrants were divided into two categories - one for pension and investment professionals, and the other for academics and trustees - with prizes of £5,000 towards an educational course for each category winner. Judges included independent pensions policy adviser to the Government Dr Ros Altmann. The competition was rolled out on 28 February.

Measurement and Evaluation

The Pensions Manifesto Challenge generated four pages of editorial in a Financial Times fm supplement, two pages in the main paper and one page on FT.com. It was also covered in the trade press, including two articles in Professional Pensions.

Results

The Pensions Manifesto Challenge received 102 entries, while the website scored 855 hits.

The timing of the election was perfect (the date was set for 5 May) with the winners and their manifestos announced in the FT on 25 and 30 April. There was strong interest in the manifestos, with Department for Work and Pensions Secretary of State David Blunkett addressing guests at the AXA awards ceremony on 7 June.

Explaining that the pensions debate was a priority for FT readers, Hargreaves says: 'We were keen to stimulate debate ahead of the election. We wanted readers to think up original but politically feasible ideas for dealing with the pensions issue.'

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