Until 1997 Halifax was Britain's biggest building society; after demutualisation it became merely the UK's sixth largest bank. For the first three years of its new life it held onto share in the mortgage and savings market, but went backwards in current accounts. Its share price languished below the sector average, and the bank was under pressure to merge.

The management responded by launching its "extraordinary growth" strategy.

Focusing on the current account market - the gateway service for finances - the target for new accounts was doubled to 400,000.

Research showed that the current account market split into three - new accounts, additional accounts and the most profitable, switchers. However, the switching market had remained flat and small for eight years.

To grow this market and ensure it got a significant share, Halifax created a current account that would pay 4% interest compared with the 0.1% paid by the four main clearing banks.

With such a radically different product, the Halifax needed a new marketing strategy. Delaney Lund Knox Warren decided it should communicate like a retailer and not like a bank. The brand proposition would be value, but it would also be human - 'extra value, extra friendly).

The physical embodiment of this strategy would be real Halifax staff and a Search for a Star was launched on Halifax's internal TV network.

The first TV ad, starring Howard Brown, broke on Boxing Day 2000 and focused on current accounts, with credit card and mortgage executions starring other members of staff to come. Aggressive retailer-style comparison ads ran in the national press, and the communications idea was also integrated into in-store material, direct marketing and online.

The ads immediately stood out from other financial sector advertising, motivated members of staff and led to an uplift in sales. By October 2001 86% of bank customers recognised the advertising, significantly ahead of rival activity. The efficiency of the ads has been such that Halifax has even been able to reduce the number of TV spots each week. Most importantly, the campaign moved the Halifax to the top of the shortlist for customers considering switching accounts. Credit card consideration also improved, while the bank's dominance in the mortgage category was extended.

Internally the message was also well received, with 84% of staff agreeing that the campaign gave the Halifax real momentum. New ads are now released at key sales conferences.

Halifax beat its target for acquiring new customers signing up more than half a million new current account holders in 2001, 25% ahead of plan.

Communications spend increased from £1.2m in 2000 to £6.9m in 2001, but the number of new accounts attributable to marketing activity increased from 42,467 to 348,774, with the cost per acquisition reducing from more than £27 to less than £20.

Despite the fact that the Halifax had to cut its 4% interest rate offer to 2% by the end of the year as base rates fell, the number of people shortlisting the bank remained constant.


Campaign: Halifax - Taking on the high street banks by communicating

like a high street retailer

Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren

Client: HBOS

Creative Directors: Gary Betts, Malcom Green

Art Directors: Gary Betts, Malcom Green

Copywriters: Gary Betts, Malcom Green

Film Director: Theo Delaney and Big TV

Advertising Manager: Philip Hanson, James Boulton

Principal Author: Richard Warren

With Contributions From: Simon Watts


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