303 won't fire a shot in HBF account pitch

THE major players in the local advertising industry are bracing themselves for another blue-chip pitch following HBF’s decision to put its $4 million account up for tender.

HBF is looking to reposition its brand, which could be bad news for HBF mascot, Ted the bear.

However, there will be some notable absences in the race to secure the HBF business with Marketforce, The Brand Agency and MJB&B unlikely to bid for the account due to commitments to other insurance clients.

HBF’s shock decision to go to the market with its advertising account followed an internal review and 303’s decision to bow out of any competitive pitch.

303 managing director Stephen Wells said the agency declined an invitation to tender for HBF’s general and health insurance business after holding the account for eight years.

“Just three months ago HBF undertook an internal review and reappointed us to its advertising account. A decision was made at the time to have JDA handle the direct marketing component of the business … last week we were advised that they intended to put the business out to tender,” Mr Wells said.

During the past eight years 303 has built HBF and Ted into one of WA’s best-recognised brands.

303 was unable to hide its disappointment at the loss of the flagship account but asserted that, in difficult circumstances sometimes it was better to walk away.

Mr Wells claimed the review was prompted by HBF’s marketing manager and a drive to look at a new direction for the account.

“When someone new comes into an organisation they want to put their stamp on it,” Mr Wells said.

In the past three months JDA has completed a number of direct mail projects for HBF and its inside knowledge of the business will put it in an enviable position ahead of the tender.

JDA general manager Julian Donaldson said JDA would be sure to pitch for the entire HBF business.

“We have been developing direct mail and direct mail campaigns for general insurance products for HBF and we’ve started to develop an understanding. We’d improve on that as we intensify research on the brand,” he said.

JDA also claims its Customer Relationship Management, or CRM strength, will be an attractive asset for HBF for the considerable below-the-line component of the account.

“A company like HBF will have an intense CRM activity in the future … the company has to get close to its clients,” Mr Donaldson said.

HBF marketing manager Lorna MacGregor said a decision to go to the market was driven by a desire to reposition the brand.

“It’s not necessarily an end to Ted, but that kind of icon needs to be revised,” she said.

At this early stage HBF was unable to say whether the account would be split between two agencies.

Ms MacGregor said HBF was undertaking a huge amount of research to keep the high-profile brand relevant to the burgeoning insurance market, particularly health insurance, which has been driven by Federal Government incentives.

“We’re looking for above and below the line … but we won’t know (whether we’ll go with one or two agencies) until we tender and, quite conceivably, we will go with two,” she said.

However, HBF is not for everyone. Industry heavyweight Marketforce won’t be burning the midnight oil on this one due to a commitment to blue-chip client SGIO.

“We have an existing client in SGIO and we have a loyalty to that client,” Marketforce group managing director John Driscoll said.

“We have a very good relationship with SGIO … and now we also have a very good relationship with NRMA and are involved on a strategic consultative level, which is hopefully beneficial for both organisations,” he said.

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