AA set for agency hire to push car-buying loans

Motoring services giant the Automobile Association (AA) is set to draft in a PR agency to raise its profile as a provider of loans to buy cars.

Four agencies have pitched for the 12-month consumer PR project, but a decision has been delayed following Centrica’s £1.75bn ongoing sale of the AA to private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and Permira Advisers.

AA PR manager Ian Crowder said that although it was ‘business as usual’ so far as its in-house PR team was concerned, the process of changing ownership was always ‘bound to have an effect on any major funding decisions’.

He added that it was ‘very early days’ and the exact remit for the agency had yet to be agreed, but he confirmed that it would cover the promotion of its car loans service.

Annual fees for the account are understood to be in the region of £100,000.

Crowder said the AA was looking to increase its sales of home loans. The motoring body already offers various financial services, including Visa cards and home, travel and car insurance.

PR activity will focus on consumer media relations, as well as creating sales promotions at events to sign up new customers.

The AA has recently lowered its APR to 6.1 per cent and now offers a free car inspection with each loan it agrees.

The AA does not have a rostered PR agency and handles all work in-house, with the exception of special projects. The successful agency will report to AA head of PR Becky Hadley.

The AA, which was formed in 1905, has a membership base of more than 12 million. British energy supplier group Centrica bought the AA in 1999 for £1.1bn.

The pitch comes as rival motoring body the RAC reviews its own financial services PR roster (PRWeek, 28 May).

The RAC has put together a shortlist that includes incumbent Lansons Communications, with a pitch set to go ahead later this month.

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