Friday 20 April 2018

AdLib: AIB team wins industry backing

AIB group’s brands director, Mark Doyle
AIB group’s brands director, Mark Doyle
Accenture’s Asta Lund

Michael Cullen

When AIB began to sweep up the debris from Ireland's economic crash in 2008, the impact on the bank was "catastrophic". After suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fiscal fortune, consumers felt nothing had changed. The AIB brand was toxic. The bank ended up at the very bottom of the Edelman Trust study. Customers were angry and the marketing team was in disarray.

Addressing the All Ireland Marketing awards - aka the AIMs - showcase breakfast, AIB group brands director Mark Doyle said the marketing team at the time was made up of career bankers. Bankcentre staff were so embarrassed that when arriving to work by taxi it was not unusual for them to ask the driver to drop them off at a nearby coffee shop.

Doyle said morale was "on the floor" and only 3pc of the marketing team was 'up for it'. A major overhaul was required. The ambition? To be the best marketing team in Ireland, bar none. As the saying goes, the fear isn't that you aim too high and miss, it's that you aim too low and succeed. Research showed that what AIB customers wanted was a bank they could believe in, which also believed in them.

In a bid to "amaze" customers, they looked at the top sporting teams - the likes of Brian Cody's Kilkenny hurlers, Lionel Messi's Barcelona and the All Blacks in rugby. They rewrote every brand profile. They appointed storytellers and publishers and pinpointed talent across digital, research and consumer insights.

Outside support came in the shape of Boston agency Marketing Xcellence and Brendan Foley's Seachange Now agency in Dun Laoghaire. Staff needed a new working environment. So they moved from a drab, lacklustre open plan up to a more modern set up with desks giving way to working in gangs and pods. 'Backing Brave' kick-started the 'Backing' ad series rolled out by Rothco and Starcom.

It redefined AIB as a business bank for SMEs 'Backing Doing' sparked a reaction in customers to act again, with home and car loans rising from €5m to €15m. 'Backing Belief' saw the mortgage ads with Mick & Kate and, more recently, Máire. Backing Club & County saw the GAA series fronted by, among others, Kerry footballer Colm 'The Gooch' Cooper. Doyle is now part of AIB's team of 120 marketers. After "a difficult journey", they made it. Winning the marketing team award at the AIMs was a huge vote of confidence from the industry. The fact things were so bad and they had to work up from the lowest base was "a gift". Since the revamp, the country has recouped €10bn from the €21bn bank bailout.


With uncertainty surrounding Brexit now impacting adversely on visitor numbers from Britain, Tourism Ireland is targeting commuters in Toronto as part of its latest overseas activity. The all-Ireland body is running ads on the city's Go commuter trains. The current marketing drive highlighting Ireland as a tourist destination to Canadian world travellers is in partnership with Air Transat.

It runs until mid-August and is expected to be seen by an estimated 4.6m Canadians or potential holidaymakers for the island of Ireland. The public transport ads are supported by a promotion on Toronto's Boom radio, offering listeners a chance to win a trip to Dublin, social media activity on Facebook and ads on the Air Transat website.

Canada is now one of Ireland's top 10 markets. Like Australians, Canadians tend to make longer visits and explore more widely than the average overseas tourist coming to Ireland. Last year saw 203,000 Canadian visitors, an increase of 11pc on 2015. Visitor numbers from Canada are up by 28pc since 2014, coinciding with direct flights. Tourism Ireland is working closely with airlines and airports to further build demand for flights.


John Concannon will take on the job as head of Taoiseach Leo Vardakar's new communications department in September.

The Galway man was director of the 1916 Centenary celebrations working to Heritage Minister Heather Humphries. He helped steer The Gathering campaign targeting Ireland's diaspora. More recently, he was director of Creative Ireland.

Concannon's FMCG marketing credentials include the national roll out of HB Magnum ice cream for Unilever. His stewardship of Fáilte Ireland's Discover Ireland staycation campaign earned him the Marketer of the Year industry award in 2010.


Elsewhere on the movers front, David Cullen has set up his own strategic consultancy called Bayes & Becker. He joined Red C 10 years ago after a merger with his OI Research agency. A specialist in advanced analytical modelling and techniques, Cullen was also a director of Lansdowne Market Research, now known as Kantar Millward Brown. Asta Lund, has joined Accenture Interactive as a senior manager. She worked in digital roles and previously spent several years with In the Company of Huskies and Diageo.

Michael Cullen is editor of; cullen@

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