Abbey National slashes its roster as part of PR review

Abbey National has slashed its use of PR agencies as part of a radical realignment, but handed Band & Brown a consumer brand PR account worth £300,000.

The agency won the account following a five-way pitch, prompted by a review of the firm’s communications and marketing operations.

The review is part of a programme to strip the bank’s services down to a focus on high-street products such as mortgages and credit cards, after returning a record £984m loss last year. That was blamed on its investment and corporate banking services.

Band & Brown takes on a newly created brief that involves working closely with brand consultancy Wolff Olins, which has been developing the Abbey National brand strategy since December 2002.

‘How we take that forward will have a PR element, and Band & Brown will be one of the driving forces behind that,’ said a spokesman.

One outcome of the review is that the number of agencies used has been cut. Abbey has dispensed with corporate services from Bell Pottinger Communications, small business PR provided by Le Fevre Communications and offshore work from Polhill Communications.

‘We have cut back on that particularly to be more efficient – we are also looking at costs,’ the spokesman said. ‘As the new strategy kicks in we will be one very focused business.’

The firm still uses Brunswick on financial PR work, along with Manning, Selvage & Lee for its separate internet banking brand Cahoot.

Band & Brown has worked with Abbey National for three years, ending in April this year. This has included brand- building work that echoed the ‘because life is complicated enough’ advertising push.

Abbey National director of customer propositions Angus Porter said: ‘Financial services communications is changing rapidly. The model of shouting loudly, trying desperately to be heard by consumers in a noisy, competitive market is outdated and inefficient.’

Also up for review is the joint venture with Costa Coffee – started in 2001 – which entails Costa Coffee outlets inside Abbey National branches to create a more relaxed banking environment.

By turnover, Abbey National is the sixth-largest high-street bank, in between Halifax at five and Alliance & Leicester at seven.

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