Westpac needs creative wake-up call, say experts

After Westpac's appointment of DDB Australia this morning, experts have argued the company is losing the brand communications battle with the other Big Four banks and needs a creative shot in the arm.

DDB has today taken out the Westpac creative account after a two-way pitch against Ogilvy. The incumbent on the account was Ted Horton's Big Red.

Numerous brand experts have told AdNews that Westpac is a distant fourth in the brand communications game. Most agree National Australia Bank (NAB) and Commonwealth Bank are winning, due to NAB's strong communications strategy including the 'Break Up' campaign, and because of CommBank's consistent messaging including its new 'Can' push.

Experts have said ANZ trails behind NAB and CommBank, but still manages to hold its own against Westpac because of consistency and presence of messaging, from its 'Now' position to its 'We live in your world' tagline.

Brand expert Dominic Walsh, who is managing director of Landor, told AdNews: “If you look at the big four, Westpac has the least clarity around what it is doing. I would say the pitch was put in place to resolve that issue.

“Whether DDB can fix the situation, I guess we'll have to watch the space and see. There is a need to get more clarity around positioning, and there is also a need for differentiation.”

Meanwhile, JMK chief executive Julian Martin said, “The bank has gone through so many agencies in recent times, from the Palace to Singleton, and even using Lavender as its creative agency for a short period, then Ted Horton, and now DDB. It has led to very erratic brand communications.

“What is the actual brand health, I'm not sure, but the brand communications health is very poor. It is very erratic and almost invisible work. The bank has the weakest brand communications health, versus the other big three which have been relatively consistent.

“However you cut it, Westpac is coming from a long way behind. I think you'd also find the brand isn't spending as much as the others.”

In June, AdNews revealed Westpac had slashed its advertising expenditure by an estimated 70% in the six months to April. Last year, the bank had been able to extract cutthroat media deals during its media review, based on spending levels of about $70 million, but data obtained by AdNews indicated a significant slump.

A prominent creative agency boss, who wished to remain unnamed, said this morning: “NAB and CommBank are leading the charge. ANZ is in a weird place, but Westpac is definitely trailing. They've wasted their money on communications that are not connecting or saying anything.”

The incumbent agency on Westpac's creative account, Big Red, had been responsible for the bank's 'KnowHow' slogan, which replaced 'We're a Bank You Can Bank On'.

However, the creative agency executive argued the campaign failed to resonate with consumers.

Consumer satisfaction figures from Roy Morgan confirm that consumer satisfaction levels are trailing behind two of its three major competitors. According to July figures from Roy Morgan, Westpac's consumer banking satisfaction levels were behind NAB, which was up by 4.3% to 78.5% satisfaction, and CommBank, which was up by 3.4% to 77.6%.

Westpac sat at 73.8%, down by 2.7%. However, Westpac was not at the bottom of the list, sitting above ANZ, which was at 73.1%.

Speaking on the appointment of DDB, the creative agency executive said: “DDB seems to handle these accounts reasonably well. But I don't think you'll see really provocative stuff.”

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