Campaign: Mortgage broker site draws homeowners

MoneyBackMortgages.com, a free online mortgage arrangement service, launched in October. The site is mainly aimed at homeowners who tend to remortgage every couple of years in order to get the best deal.

Campaign MoneyBackMortgages.com
Client MoneyBackMortgages.com
PR team Band & Brown Communications
Timescale August-October 2006
Budget £20,000

Not only does it allow potential borrowers to research and apply for a mortgage, but users can get 50 per cent of the broker's commission paid back to them.

The company enlisted Band & Brown Communications to raise awareness of the new service.

Objectives
To help launch the company and drive traffic to the website.

Strategy and Plan
MoneyBackMortgages only wanted to use PR because it felt that a sufficient volume of articles by personal finance journalists would validate the service more effectively than advertising.

The Band & Brown team aimed to set up media briefings with key personal finance contacts in national press, via a campaign based on the concept of ‘money for old rope' - ie, through the cashback scheme, users of MoneyBackMortgages would receive money from an activity they would have to undertake anyway.

It created Perspex boxes containing a piece of old rope, and a leaflet asking ‘Can anyone really offer money for old rope?'. Other promotional lines included ‘Contact us and we'll show you the ropes'. B&B sent the boxes to media contacts.

One-to-one briefings were secured as a result, whereby journalists had the chance to meet MoneyBackMortgages co-founder Simon Edgar, and witness a presentation on the services offered and a demonstration of the site. B&B then started an intensive sell-in to national, regional, print, broadcast and online media, paying particular attention to personal finance reporters.

Measurement and Evaluation
The PR team secured eight briefings with national personal finance media, including The Times, Daily Express and Working Lunch, before the website's launch. Of these media, coverage post-launch was extensive with six national newspapers mentioning the service, including The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Mirror.

ITV1's Make Me Rich presenter Martin Lewis profiled MoneyBackMortgages on moneysavingexpert.com and in its e-newsletter. Regional newspaper coverage included articles in the Stafford Express & Star, Shropshire Star and North West Evening Mail.

Results
MoneyBackMortgages has received nearly 70,000 hits to its website, and attracted 3,500 unique users, since its launch. More than 200 property owners have applied for mortgages via the site, with loans on average worth £211,000.

This means an average commission for MoneyBackMortgages brokers of £940 (with half of this amount paid back to borrowers).

In the first month alone, MoneyBackMortgages has grossed more than £94,000 in revenue.

Daily Express personal finance reporter Holly Thomas says: ‘The rope-in-a-box idea was a good attention-grabber. The website itself was good and had a lot of relevance to our readers. B&B called me and talked me through the concept, sent me a link to the site and set up a telephone interview with MoneyBackMortgages.'

SECOND OPINION, Nita Shah

Unlike fancy gadgets, designer items and exotic destinations, PR for financial services faces the challenge of making the product appealing to consumers. The main problem is that the target audience already has a good understanding of the sector. This means that creativity here is somewhat limited.

The rope in a box was okay for gimmick purposes but slightly risky as it didn't give any real information except ask journalists to call for further information. Personally I would have preferred just to have phoned up target media. That way it would be possible to retain control, ensuring the target person was found.

That said, the results achieved were good. With nothing sinister or controversial about this product, there is plenty of scope for more impressive coverage.

My questions would be whether there was any relevance in differentiating between pre and post-launch coverage. Also, there are many personal finance trade titles that are well read and would have been ideal candidates for briefings. Were these publications approached, and if so, why didn't they run a story?

Still, I can't knock this campaign too much. Financial services are not yoghurts, DVD players or awareness days - they have a real impact on individuals and their lives. Effective campaigns in this sector must be commended.

Nita Shah, founder of Shahrp, was last week named Entrepreneur of the Year at Enterprise Enfield's Business Awards 2006.

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