Campaign: Helping first-time buyers
PR team: In-house
Timescale: 19-29 January 2005
The UK's biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, wanted to highlight the raw deal customers were getting on stamp duty. The lower threshold for being exempt from paying residential stamp duty had not risen in line with house prices, meaning many first-time buyers could not afford to buy a property. Objectives
To raise the profile of the plight of first-time buyers. To raise the lower threshold of residential stamp duty. To position Halifax as a champion of the first-time buyer's cause.
Strategy and Plan
The campaign aimed to grab the attention of politicians and journalists, as well as first-time buyers themselves. Timing was crucial because the in-house team wanted to use the run-up to the Budget to maximise impact.
The challenge was to stand out among all the other issues vying for press and political attention. As a result, the team put all the press office's energy behind the stamp duty issue.
NOP was commissioned to research public opinion on raising the threshold, while 'startling' statistics on the housing market were collated. Research uncovered that 92 per cent of the UK's main postal towns were unaffordable for the typical first-time buyer, while the average house price paid by this group had increased by 16 per cent in 2004.
These figures, supported by case studies, formed the basis of a press release on trends and patterns in the first-time buyer's market, which was sent to personal finance and property journalists as well as banking and general news reporters. This was followed up by face-to face-briefings.
The PR team wrote to every member of parliament and carried out briefings at Westminster and Holyrood to politicians about the impact of stamp duty on first-time buyers.
Press officers presented politicians with a document outlining the economic stamp duty research and Halifax's position and suggested solutions. The team also wrote to other peers and interested parties, such as the Consumers' Association, about the campaign to lower the threshold.
Halifax also created a pamphlet giving first-time buyers information on the range of mortgage products available at the bank to help them get onto the property ladder.
Measurement and Evaluation
Metrica estimates the advertising value equivalent of the coverage achieved was £2.9m. The angle picked up by most national and regional newspapers was that first-time buyers were being priced out of the housing market. The story was also the main item on several national TV and radio shows.
Chancellor Gordon Brown doubled the stamp duty threshold from £60,000 to £120,000 in his Budget, and 20 members of the Scottish Parliament signed an Early Day Motion. Halifax's dedicated website received 134,000 hits during February.
Independent personal finance editor David Prosser says: 'The campaign raised the profile of the issue just as Brown was preparing his Budget.
Since the Budget was expected to be the final one before the election, it was a real opportunity to get some movement.'