CAMPAIGNS: FINANCIAL SERVICES; Prudential bank plays it straight

Client: Prudential PR Team: In-house with consultancy support on broadcasting from Bulletin International Campaign: Prudential’s launch into banking Timescale: 25 September, 1996 to 1 October and ongoing Cost: pounds 25,000 plus pounds 1.5m poster campaign

Client: Prudential

PR Team: In-house with consultancy support on broadcasting from Bulletin

International

Campaign: Prudential’s launch into banking

Timescale: 25 September, 1996 to 1 October and ongoing

Cost: pounds 25,000 plus pounds 1.5m poster campaign



With banks eroding the life insurance market, it made sense for the

Prudential, the UK’s largest life insurer, to fight back, offering

mortgages and deposit accounts so it could hang on to some of the pounds

1.4 billion which matures in its insurance policies each year. The new

bank opened on 1 October and will operate over the telephone and through

the Prudential’s 6,000-strong direct sales force.



Objectives



The Prudential wanted to tell its 6 million customers, mostly working

class Cs and Ds, that it was going into banking. This information was

not new, since the intention had been announced last year, but the

details and launch required publicity.



The Pru wanted to emphasise its consumer friendliness, pointing out that

there were no hidden charges, no jargon and guaranteed competitive

interest rates. To the consumer press they wanted to stress choice and

service, to the City, the soundness of the business venture.



Tactics



As a conservative organisation, the Pru wanted to avoid Branson-style

razzmatazz and promote its combination of dynamism and traditionalism.

‘We didn’t want to distract from the important issue with a circus,’

says senior press officer Kevin Russell.



Instead he opted for a no-frills press conference led by Michael Harris,

head of the Pru’s banking operation and chief executive of Prudential

UK, Jim Sutcliffe. A photo call with the executives beside the Pru’s

bank vault at its imposing Gothic headquarters in Holborn provided

images which emphasised the Pru’s longevity and solidity.



The team gave phone briefings to personal finance journalists on every

national newspaper and targeted broadcasts, including Today, Newsnight

and consumer programmes across the networks. Stories were planted the

day before the 25 September press conference in papers aimed at its core

market, such as the Daily Mail and Evening Standard. A launch for local

press and dignitaries was held on 26 September in the West Midlands to

highlight local employment prospects (about 700 jobs) provided by the

new service centre in Dudley.



Results



With 40 journalists plus half a dozen broadcasters attending the press

conference, there was blanket coverage of the event, proving that you

don’t have to be gimmicky to run a successful launch.



Broadcast news carriers from Reuters, Bloomberg and BBC Economics, to

the Today programme and the Big Breakfast ran interviews, notching up a

total of 52 minutes of air time in 37 national and regional radio

broadcasts, and one hour, 21 minutes of television.



Verdict



A conservative launch in terms of cost which made the most of in-house

resources. As intended, the team avoided over-hyping the service and

flooding the newly opened service centre.



Most coverage reflected the Pru’s bullish tone, but the more analytical

Sunday papers were not so flattering. The Independent on Sunday

criticised unimpressive interest rates, while the Express said the Pru

claimed to have declared all-out war on the banks, but came out fighting

with a water pistol.



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