Barclaycard and EE search for the lost big brand campaign

I see from Campaign that Barclaycard is reviewing its ad agency although, for the life of me, I can’t recall a single recent Barclaycard ad despite the efforts of, latterly, Iris and before that BBH in a long stint.

Like most other such advertisers Barclaycard has been weaving across the communications spectrum like a drunken sailor, rather forgetting that ads (marketing communications if we must) are pointless if non-one can remember them. Its latest wheeze is Barclaycard Entertainment.

Also that BT-owned EE is set to embark on a new path titled ‘Who says you can’t?’ aimed at customers who get fed up when they run out of “data.” Most EE customers get fed up when they can’t get a decent signal in the middle of large towns.

BT says the new strategy will help it zero in on “customer pinch-points,” whatever they may be. To this end agency Saatchi & Saatchi has recruited comedian David Mitchell to work alongside actor Kevin Bacon, while admitting that Kevin hasn’t been bringing home the, er, bacon. All sounds good then.

Barclaycard was the first UK credit card, established through some very famous advertising from CDP. The then card master was Amex but lots of places didn’t take Amex charge cards because of their high commission (many visitors to Cannes Lions eateries have discovered this over the years). So CDP enlisted TV journalist Alan Whicker to make the point.

There you have it: a strong brand proposition with a practical and comprehensible benefit.

Later came a series with Rowan Atkinson but they weren’t as funny or to the point.

Barclaycard’s Andrew Hogan says: “As we embark on a new strategy for the re-shaped Barclaycard business, our brand has taken central stage as a key means of driving growth. We have a clear vision for bringing this brilliantly to life, and we want to consolidate with a best-in-class brand agency to help us achieve this going forwards.”

Could adam&eve handle Barclaycard? Probably not, thanks to Lloyds.

Well we’ll see. But back in the day Barclaycard did have such agencies and an incredibly strong brand.

Back to EE, marketing boss Pete Jeavons says: “We got to a point where we were communicating individual products with no unifying take-out for the brand. It had been very successful, but there wasn’t anything gelling that together, a point of view on the world, or a take-out for our customers.”

Um, maybe. What they got was a load of pointless prattling from the annoying Bacon. Another major UK advertiser in search of that elusive brand even though it’s sticking with its agency for now. But Saatchi probably gets this even if, in the recent past anyway, EE didn’t.

Maybe advertisers are waking up to the fact that data-driven content only gets you so far. It’s an expensive way of not being famous.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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