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Westpac wasn't banking on this

John Drinnan

Friday 7th November 2003

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Had a tough week in marketing? Spare a thought for Westpac Bank New Zealand marketing director Michelle van Gaarlen, who has seen the brand assailed from all sides.

News emerged on Tuesday about upheavals inside its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, but the bank was already having a bad news day.

Most banks were hoping to pick up some of the customer flight from National Bank when ANZ takes over.

But Westpac had front-page headlines warning consumers of an email scam where Westpac customers were directed to a phoney website and tricked into revealing their login name and password.

On the same day came reports the bank had notched up 144 complaints to the banking ombudsman from dissatisfied customers, more than double the nearest rival ANZ with 64.

Under normal circumstances Westpac would have had its ad campaign up and running to counter some of the bad publicity.

The new Saatchi & Saatchi transtasman campaign was to start in October but was delayed while Westpac was a contender for purchase of the National Bank.

Sydney-based cross-Tasman account director Michael Rebelo said the Westpac campaign had been delayed till January, by which time the volatility in the banking sector would have settled down. It was best not to launch the new campaign while the New Zealand market was going through changes.

And now Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand appears to be facing a period of upheavals.

The agency had been the incumbent locally while the Sydney office took the Australian business from Singleton Ogilvy & Mather.

But two of the key Kiwi executives involved in the pitch have left or are about to do so.

Former account director Mike Redwood, who had been told if the account was lost his job prospects were slim, had wisely opted to jump ship and wound up at Colenso BBDO on the Air New Zealand account.

Now Ian Christie is about to go and it looks likely the agency will be headed by Andrew Stone. Ironically, Stone had previously pitched for the Westpac bid alongside the Campaign Palace in Australia.

At print time Westpac spokesman Paul Gregory said he had not heard about the prospects for change at Saatchi & Saatchi.

But he said that even if this occurred it did not create any problem. Westpac had chosen the Saatchi & Saatchi pitch for its ideas and not the personalities on the team.

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