Nectar, the new multi-retailer loyalty programme backed by J Sainsbury, Barclaycard, Debenhams and BP, has been forced to put its £50 million marketing campaign into the freezer pending a solution to major system problems affecting online registration.

Nectar, the brainchild of Air Miles co-founder Keith Mills, had claimed prior to last week’s launch, that the venture would recruit 50% of all Britons within its first year [WAMN: 05-Jun-02].

Mills was in similar ebullient mindset on the day of the launch, telling the press: “Consumer interest in the Nectar programme has been phenomenal and we are well on the way to becoming the [nation’s] biggest rewards programme. We have already enrolled almost 100,000 people online.”

But hubris has metamorphosed into debris. Not only was the website unable to cope with the number of Britons flocking to register at the behest of a massive TV campaign; worse yet, the system’s security was blown when registrants found they could view other people’s data as they trawled the site.

No date has yet been announced for the reopening of the Nectar site, although Richard Campbell, marketing director at Loyalty Management International, the company behind the Nectar brand, hailed the consumer response as “fantastic” – a singularly appropriate adjective according to one industry cynic who cited the OED thesaurus: “Irrational, wild, mad, absurd, far-fetched, nonsensical, incredible, unbelievable.”

Campbell also “regretted” the problems with the site but refuted that these reflected a victory of marketing style over systems substance.

Loyalty Management International is backed by US private investment bank Warburg Pincus.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff