CAMPAIGNS: UK launch of high-risk tool for investors - Financial PR

Client: London Stock Exchange PR Team: In-house and Capital Communications MS&L Campaign: The launch of a new financial product under the strapline 'Rise Above It' Timescale: 28 October launch Budget: £40,000

Capital Communications faced the task of launching a complex financial product, called covered warrants, in the UK.

The product is a form of securitised derivative that gives holders the right to sell an underlying asset at a specified price during a set time period. It is already operated in other markets, but has only recently been cleared by the Financial Services Authority for the UK market.

It is targeted mainly at private investors, but is a high-risk product, so isn't for the faint hearted. Despite this, it has proved popular with investors in other markets around the world.

Objectives

Capital Communications had to successfully launch the product in a difficult market and ensure that it was fully understood by those set to use it.

The campaign also had to contend with a complex retail financial product in a market of falling share prices and a climate of uncertainty from private investors.

Capital Communications director Richard Campbell says: 'It was difficult.

Most other launches were done in bull markets. The newspapers were looking to compare the UK with other markets, where share dealing was at an all-time high.'

The aim was also to show the target market (which had been identified by research as experienced private investors with spare high-risk capital and City workers) that covered warrants could take advantage of a market with falling share prices.

Strategy and Plan

Campbell says that the company engaged in two months of educating the press about the product prior to its launch.

'We focused on the City pages, but also the general financial news pages.

In addition to news stories leading up to the launch, we also had more in-depth half-page articles describing exactly what a covered warrant was,' he adds.

The campaign turned the falling market into an advantage by emphasising that investors could benefit from falling shares by using covered warrants.

To push this home, it used the strapline 'Rise Above It' - referring to the state of the stock market. Campbell also explained that the nature of the product meant that the campaign had to be perfectly clear about the benefits and potential risks. 'From the start we were quite transparent about the product. It would work against you if it entered the market and wasn't what people expected,' he said.

Building understanding was accomplished by putting together a thorough media pack explaining the product. This was followed by a series of briefings intended to give trade and national media different hooks for their articles.

Impartial commentators, such as Justin Urquhart Stewart of 7 Investment Management and Neil Jamieson of Comdirect, were also briefed on the product and then offered up as independent spokespersons. Jamieson was used in several articles.

A number of news stories were fed in periodically to prompt steady coverage in the run up to the launch. Creative photography was also used as a catalyst for further media briefings and coverage.

A key element in the campaign was targeting workers in the City. As many were already trading derivatives, they were unlikely to be scared off by the risky nature of the product. So, in addition to media activity, the company also arranged stunts for the launch day.

Promotional activity was built around the campaign's strapline 'Rise Above It', and involved stilt walkers distributing branded merchandise in the financial district of London. This spawned a large photograph in The Financial Times.

Measurement and Evaluation

Early articles published in prominent media such as The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph led to renewed interest from other areas. By the launch date, all broadsheet newspapers had covered the product several times. The creative photography had also lead to further articles.

Media monitoring was carried out by independent measuring service i to i Tracker. The overall reach and frequency measurement of the campaign showed that 99 per cent of the audience had been reached over 18 times.

The creative photography organised was responsible for further media briefings, resulting in a piece in the FT's Lex column.

Results

The launch was considered to have been successful despite the continuing bear market. Five months after the launch of the product trades have reached over 1,000 a week. The growth of the market for covered warrants has matched expectations and the number on offer has increased from 160 to 417.

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