Agency: McCann Erickson (Scotland) Authors: B. Fitzpatrick and P. Atkinson

Dunfermline Building Society: Advertising Effectiveness


The statistics presented under the campaign achievements and results would be impressive enough in a normal trading year. But 1992 was no ordinary year, given the background of a difficult economic situation and a severe lack of confidence in the housing market.

Though Scotland has not been affected to quite the same extent as some parts of the United Kingdom, the Dunfermline Building Society has nevertheless had to work particularly hard to gain its share of the savings and mortgage market north of the border.

It was particularly noteworthy that the Society achieved a net inflow of £37 million in personal investments, excluding re-invested interest. This represents 12.5% of the total building society investment receipts of £295 million for the whole of the UK in 1992. This is impressive in the light of the fact that the Society is ranked 29th in size of the total 87 societies in the UK.

The success continued in 1993 with net investment receipts at seven times the industry average and new mortgages representing 20% of total assets compared to an average of 12% for all societies in the UK.

As to the question of how far the television advertising campaign can be said to have been a factor in this remarkable performance, it should be remembered that, save for some standard 'Investment Rate Change' ads in the press, this was the only piece of advertising undertaken by the Dunfermline Building Society during the periods under discussion.

It should further be remembered that the television commercials were proved to have been effective in terms of lifting unprompted awareness of the Society from 20% in August 1992 to 34% in October 1993 and of increasing prompted recall from 77% to 86% over the same campaign period.

Given that this considerable growth in awareness was achieved by means of applying a budget which was only a fraction of those at the disposal of the 'heavy hitters' in the marketplace, and given that the Dunfermline nevertheless outperformed those larger societies in both the investment and the mortgage sectors, it would seem logical to deduce that the television campaign for the Dunfermline Building Society is simply a very powerful and compelling piece of work which achieved its stated objectives, those being:

  • To portray the Dunfermline Building Society as a 'big' player in the marketplace.
  • To convince Scots that the Dunfermline Building Society was a truly Scottish building society that, uniquely, understood the Scottish character.
  • To demonstrate that the Society was a secure part of Scottish life.


The provision of housing finance has over the past 15 to 20 years come to be regarded as one of the safest and most profitable forms of consumer lending, and it was inevitable that it would attract new entrants into the market. The entry of the clearing banks into the market in the early 1980s was therefore predictable, as was the building societies' response, a wide-ranging deregulation and a greatly increased degree of competitiveness on the part of what had hitherto been known as a 'movement', but which now began to call itself an industry.

This increased competitiveness took several forms. Increased access to the money markets has meant that societies are less reliant on retail funds, ie savings from individuals, and can offer a range of mortgage products, eg fixed rate, discount, cashback or pension-linked products. There is now real mortgage rate competition, and the days of the mortgage queue are ended. Some societies have also extended the range of their provision of financial services to include the sales of pensions and life assurance, with some even going into the business of selling houses by way of estate agency chains. Not all of this diversification has been uniformly successful.

These developments have in broad terms tended to benefit the larger societies, which can take greatest advantage of the efficiency obtained by large-scale operations. There has therefore been a significant degree of rationalisation in the industry, by way of a process of mergers and acquisitions, and there are now only 87 members of the Building Societies Association, compared with over 200 ten years ago.

There are however always exceptions to any trend, and the Dunfermline Building Society is one such. As a regional society with a share of total building society assets of about 0.25%, it would have been expected to be less than competitive in terms of its product offering. This is not in fact the case. Having taken the decision to maintain its focus on its core business of providing housing finance and savings products to the people of Scotland, it has developed a range central to the success of the Society. This paper will demonstrate how thoughtful and relevant communication with the consumer can result in gains in market share and profitability.


Dunfermline Building Society is by far the biggest Scottish-based building society and plays an important part in the savings and mortgage market in Scotland. However, on a nationwide basis (as per the Building Society Association figures for 1992), Dunfermline Building Society is ranked 29th in the UK with an asset value of £720 million, 0.27% of total building society asset values. The Society was established in 1869 when the Dunfermline Building Company was set up as a co-operative organisation to build homes for its members. Now, 125 years on, the Dunfermline Building Society looks after some £811.9 million of investors' savings and is providing £618 million to enable members to buy their own homes.

The Society offers a comprehensive range of investment, mortgage and personal financial services through a network of 32 branches from Kirkwall to Castle Douglas and also Manchester. Further representation is provided by more than 150 agency offices throughout Scotland. This branch and agency network is controlled by Head Office in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland.

The Society's marketing objective was to increase its market share of both mortgage and savings business in Scotland.


McCann Erickson had already conducted broad-based research into consumer perceptions of the consumer financial services industry. It had raised key issues of consumer attitudes which the campaign would have to address:

  • The consumer had a jaundiced view of over-enthusiastic corporate claims. A company might like to think of itself as being 'listening', but it would be judged on its performance.

  • During a recession, financial service companies should have done more to reassure their customers of their continued support. Confidence in these companies had been dented by scare stories concerning repossessions and excessive bank charges.

  • The building society sector was perceived as being more customer-oriented than the high street banks, but to a lesser degree than had been expected. The consumer's cynicism was, it seemed, spreading to a sector that was traditionally well regarded.

In March 1992 Dunfermline Building Society launched a new corporate television commercial. This was the sole above-the-line advertising in 1992 and 1993. There was simply no money in the budget for radio, press, cinema or outdoor advertising. The only support to the television was three in-store posters which depicted scenes from the television commercial, which were used in the windows of branch offices. This new 'Word Association' campaign replaced the previous advertising theme of the 'Texan'.

The previous television campaign featured the 'affable' Dunfermline Texan and was launched to a receptive Scotland in 1988, and he (the Texan) went on to star in three commercials over the next four years. Popular with customers and staff alike, the character became a valuable advertising property in his own right and served to transform awareness levels of the brand throughout Scotland.

When McCann-Erickson Scotland was appointed by the Dunfermline Building Society late in 1991 our first task was to evaluate where the Texan (the existing campaign) should go from there.

The agency team was concerned that the Texan character was becoming so powerful as to eclipse the brand. Independent market research was undertaken.

The research established that:

  • The advertising to date had worked well to establish awareness of Dunfermline Building Society but less well in providing a positive incentive for use (or increased use) of the Society's products.

  • Knowing that this was the aim of any future advertising campaign we needed to build on this platform: retaining the high profile but generating more favourable views of the Society.

  • There were two possibilities open to us:

    1. either retain the Texan character and develop it further or
    2. move on to a new advertising approach.

  • Advertising based around the Texan would have the advantage of an automatic link to a strong branding device. There was also potential for future scenarios (marriage, children, with attendant product needs, etc) and it might have been possible to overcome current problems by toning down the central character.

  • However, antipathy to the character and therefore predisposition to reject associated sales points was high, and it was agreed that the device overshadows attendant messages. On this basis, on the advice of the agency team the use of the Texan for the Dunfermline Building Society was not continued. It was agreed that we would devise a new advertising approach in 1992.

  • In considering future advertising and the development of a new creative theme, many important factors had to be considered:

    1. Identification of the product/service range would be vital.
    2. The assurance of an ability to compete with the 'big boys' in catering for all needs, at competitive rates.
    3. Dunfermline's Scottish heritage seemed to be a key selling point: it is a factor in consideration of societies and can be linked to other (more important) factors, for example: access existence of outlets in all major Scottish towns; security long established company, recognisable roots; service friendly Scottish service.

In addition, 'Scottishness' can be underlined by local investment thereby increasing any emotional pull, used to imply knowledge of local conditions, etc.


The task therefore was to create a new television campaign which could grow upon the awareness and strength of the past 'Texan' campaign with the primary objective to help build awareness levels of Dunfermline Building Society in the Scottish marketplace and establish the Society as Scotland's own building society and so increase market share.

The underlying purpose of the television campaign was to get our target audience to prefer the Society to the big league Scottish and national banks and to English building societies. It was targeted at all adults in Scotland, and included both new and existing customers.


Initial consumer research identified the opportunity for the Dunfermline Building Society to position themselves as the building society for Scots. Respondents to the research tended to differentiate between individual building societies on the basis of experience, and beyond this, on the basis of perceived size, advertising and nationality. Perceived size and advertising presence were closely related. The television commercial was designed to persuade Scots to look on the Dunfermline Building Society as an appealing and refreshing alternative to the key English societies, repositioning the Society as the one that understands Scots, their desires and needs.

The question of nationality rarely arose: although comment suggested it could be an important pull for Scots:

  • for most it would be secondary to the key requirements of rates, access and security;

  • for some, an assurance of its reality would be necessary, ie not just a Scottish name or location or origin but evidence of genuine investment in and value to Scotland.

It is not a product television commercial, but a corporate commercial, designed to touch Scottish hearts. The 'takeaway' would be that the Dunfermline, as this 'test' indicates, is the only building society that truly understands the Scottish psyche. We developed the tagline 'Scotland's Building Society' which evoked a positive response and credible positioning of the Society.


The creative strategy took the form of a word association exercise whereby a random collection of words could be answered by a collection of images, some expected, some not so expected.

We focused on the traditional strengths of the Dunfermline Building Society and on its virtually unique and altogether positive selling point its Scottishness. We recognised the need to reflect a more customer friendly, emotional set of values.

The intent was to allow the totally individual character of a typically Scottish customer to establish him/herself in the viewers' mind and to have them respond positively to the emotional, patriotic, quirky, canny, practical, loyal, honest, easy-going and humorous nature of that character.

The commercial used an original Gaelic music soundtrack.

The strength of the creative execution was recognised with the highly acclaimed Scottish IPA Effectiveness Award, Creative Circle Award for best music and the 1994 Financial Services Award for best television advertisement in the UK. The judges were unanimous in awarding the gold to the Dunfermline Building Society commercial, which was described as 'just stunning' and 'cracking work'.

The commercial was first produced as a 50-second length and was devised to be flexible, in that other words and images could be easily intermingled to change the emphasis and create a new commercial. In 1993, two 30-second commercials were produced using some existing footage from the original 50 seconds and also introducing some new elements.

A further commercial will be created this summer (1994) using the same successful word association theme. It will be transmitted in the autumn.


The timing of this television commercial was crucial to its overall success. The client and agency teams assessed the traditional peak seasons for loans and mortgages, which were defined as late spring and early autumn. Therefore, the television activity was allocated into two campaign periods, launching in March 1992 with a 50-second execution; the second phase was in September 1992. The television campaign consisted of one 50-second and two 30-second treatments to increase the frequency of message. These two periods of March and September were allocated TV advertising in 1993 also.


Media budget

A limited budget was available. The total television budget was £145,475 in 1992 and £190,000 in 1993.

Media planning

Television activity was the sole medium for this campaign. No other media activity was created. The Dunfermline Building Society's competitors have a considerable television presence in Scotland (outspending by up to 18 to 1) and for Dunfermline Building Society to command the same status, a correspondingly high profile campaign was needed. Being on television says that the Dunfermline is big, and up amongst the top players, and it delivers reassurance.

Astute media planning and buying was an important factor in the efficiency and overall success and effectiveness of the television campaign.

The broad target audience of all adults meant that television airtime was bought on an all-time basis, but with a significant upweight in peak viewing periods, both early and late evening. This meant that lighter viewing groups, ie ABC1s and 16 to 34-year-olds were in effect upweighted, and the campaign delivered its impacts in a more balanced way. Prestige airtime ie centre break of Coronation Street and News at Ten were utilised to support the Society's positioning as a major player in the market.

The campaign was concentrated in time to ensure that the Society achieved a dominant share-of-voice in respect of other major high street financial institutions. This was reflected in the awareness levels recorded by the post-campaign research.

The commercial appeared on ITV in the STV and Grampian regions of Scotland which covered 33 out of 34 Dunfermline Building Society branches located in Scotland.



The campaign reached 95% of the target audience in Scotland in 1992 and 1993. Tracking and image study research clearly shows that in the minds of the Scottish audience the Dunfermline Building Society is a major player. Table 1, extracted from independent market research conducted by System Three, indicates the increase in spontaneous awareness from 20% to 33% which corresponds to the launch period of the campaign, August 1992 to October 1993. Below are three tables extracted from the most recent System Three Scotland research study.


Aug 92Sept 92Aug 93Oct 93Feb 93Mar 93
Abbey National465051504747
Bradford & Bingley343537273827
Alliance & Leicester322633353935
National & Provincial81217131211
Cheltenham & Gloucester555543
Northern Rock467785
None/don't know65434
New campaign

The Dunfermline Building Society recorded a significant increase of 8 % in spontaneous recall figures between August and October 1993. This movement is such that it brings spontaneous mentions of the Society to the upper level that was achieved just after the introduction of the new advertising in spring 1992. However, the base line figure improved with an upward trend evident in results from the pre-stages:

August 199220%
February 199325%
August 199326%

Thus each wave of advertising appears to be building the residual base of spontaneous awareness of the Dunfermline.

As a follow-up question on unprompted awareness, respondents where asked which building societies they had seen advertised at all recently. Results were:


Abbey National1925242817
Bradford & Bingley1712232115
Alliance & Leicester2725211318
National & Provincial55745
Cheltenham & Gloucester*1211
Northern Rock*111*
None/don't know1920211822

Again the Dunfermline and the Halifax emerge as the only two building societies showing a significant increase in recall on this measure. Both recorded a 6 % increase, against the situation for other building societies of little movement or significant decline (for the Abbey National and Bradford & Bingley in particular) over the period August to October 1993.

The spontaneous post-campaign advertising recall figure for the Dunfermline fell back slightly to 19%, from the figure of 23% recorded in September 1992 when the campaign was first introduced. This reflects the weight of advertising at the campaign's launch compared with television weight in 1993.

When prompted with a list of building societies, awareness levels fluctuated marginally from the levels recorded previously for most of the building societies:


Abbey National9696959797969797
Alliance & Leicester8484878892909293
Bradford & Bingley9084868992868990
National & Provincial7166636869656973
Northern Rock3938414043394449
Cheltenham & Gloucester3024363632343841
* less than 1% but not zero

Table 3 shows that the maximum unprompted awareness level of Dunfermline Building Society is 86% (October 1993).

Movement for the Dunfermline over the last two waves of interviewing (at 3%) leaves recall levels for this Society at the top end of the range recorded over the past few years.

It is worth noting that advertising expenditure levels vary considerably amongst the societies.

In the case of Halifax and Nationwide they outspend the Dunfermline Building Society by over ten times as much in Scotland. (In 1992 Halifax spent £23 million on advertising nationally, with approximately £2.3 million of that in Scotland.)


Total building society expenditure (£000)112,479.2101,125.9
Dunfermline Building Society Expenditure (£000)197.1214.0
Dunfermline share-of-voice0.175%0.212%
Source: Register-MEAL


Since the television commercial was a corporate and not a product commercial it is difficult to accurately pinpoint pre and post sales of the Society's services.

The Society was extremely successful versus other societies. However, it should be noted that the Dunfermline Building Society operates in an area (Scotland) that was more economically stable than the rest of the UK during that period.

In Figure 1 net receipts refers to investment inflow. Thus the Dunfermline Building Society's inflow in November 1993 is 5% of its total gross assets, while for all societies combined the corresponding share is 1%.

It should however be noted that the Scottish economy was a lot more robust than the English economy during this period.

Gross advances relate to new mortgages. The Dunfermline Building Society lent 19% of its total assets whilst all societies combined lent 12% up to November 1993 (see Figure 2).

1993 performance figures


New mortgage lending by the Society reached an all-time high of £143.9 million in 1993 representing an increase of 21.7% over 1992.

Personal savings

Most of the Society's funding requirements have been met from the personal savings sector in which Dunfermline TESSAs continue to be market leaders. Net retail investment receipts, excluding interest credited, was £40.7 million. This was almost seven times the industry average.


Whilst pre-tax profits at £10.6 million remained virtually unchanged from the previous year, profits after tax at £7 million compared to £6.8 million in 1992 showed an increase of 3%. Whilst some societies reporting this year's results may show greater increases in profits compared to 1992, this is largely due to substantial reductions in their mortgage loss provisioning. The Society has demonstrated a commendable consistency in profits over a run of years as shown in Table 5.

1989 TO 1993 (£M)

Pre tax profits10.610.
Profits after tax7.

The reserves or gross capital of the Society increased by £7 million or 17.1% to £48 million.

Total gross capital represents 6.4% of total shares and deposits and loan liabilities, giving the Society a strong foundation for future developments.


The Society's total assets increased by 12.8% to £811.9 million.

Mortgage Provisions

Commenting on the results, director and chief executive David Smith said 'The Society has had another excellent year, particularly gratifying being the substantial increase in mortgage lending, reflecting our determination to increase market share.'


The aims of the campaign can best be measured by the overall performance of the Society in 1993. Society personnel and customers alike responded very well to the television commercial. It reinforced staff morale and pride in the Society. Customers genuinely loved the music, and many of them enquired as to where they could get a copy of the music track used in the Television commercial. Some even wrote to local and national newspapers to applaud the relevance of the commercial to them.

Striking the right note

Having struggled for years to understand television adverts Guinness and Youngers are weird I have at last found one (Dunfermline Building Society commercial) which is not only clear, but to which I can relate.
It speaks to me, know what I mean?
Dunfermline Building Society has done it right. The music, the single-word captions, glimpses of the saltire it is wonderful. Shipyard workers heritage. Yeh! Galley slaves work. Yey! Jimmy Hill PAIN! It was so realistic I had to stand up.
And joys of joys Kenny Dalglish helping to stuff England by putting the ball through the legs of Ray Clements. Yeh! Yeh! Yeh! give us more. I am about ready to do a remortgage.


Targets for investment and mortgage business were both met in 1993. Net investment receipts (savings), which is the difference between money invested and money withdrawn in a given period, ie new business were seven times the industry average in 1993 and new mortgages 20% of total assets at the start of 1993 compared to an average of 12% for all societies.

Mortgage figures

All societies combined lent 13.55% of their total assets.

This means that, at a time when other building societies were experiencing difficulty in maintaining their levels of mortgage lending, the Dunfermline was able to increase both its volume and its share of lending. Dunfermline Building Society lent 18.35% of its total assets. Given that the Scottish consumer has at least equal (if not superior) access to mortgage finance as anyone else in the UK, it is clear that the Society had at the least competed successfully. It should however, be noted that the Scottish economy was more robust than the English economy during this period.

Since television advertising was the primary marketing tool deployed we can claim that its effectiveness played a significant role in the overall performance of the Society.

The Dunfermline Building Society TV commercial has now won four major awards:

  1. The Scottish IPA Effectiveness Award in the financial/corporate sector.
  2. Creative Circle Award.
  3. Gold Award Building Society Marketing Award 1993.
  4. Gold 1994 Financial Services Award.


The statistics presented under the campaign achievements and results would be impressive enough in a normal trading year. But 1992 was no ordinary year, given the background of a difficult economic situation and a severe lack of confidence in the housing market.

Though Scotland has not been affected to quite the same extent as some parts of the United Kingdom, the Society has nevertheless had to work particularly hard to gain its share of the savings and mortgage market north of the border.

It was particularly noteworthy that the Society achieved a net inflow of £37 million in personal investments, excluding re-invested interest. This represents 12.5% of the total Building Society investment receipts of £295 million for the whole of the UK in 1992. This is impressive, in the light of the fact that the Society is ranked 29th in size of the total 87 societies in the UK.

The success continued in 1993 with net investment receipts at seven times the industry average and new mortgages representing 20% of total assets compared to an average of 12% for all societies in the UK.


Dunfermline Buidling Society: Advertising Effectiveness


Source: BSA

Dunfermline Buidling Society: Advertising Effectiveness


Source: BSA