The Money Advice Service has – rightly – taken much criticism in recent days, most strikingly when Martin Lewis labelled their health check service as “crap”. The criticism is well summarised in a recent article in Money Marketing.
But MAS does not have to be crap. Take the 5-a-day campaign as an example. I am sure most readers will be aware of this campaign and its message.
The 5-a-day campaign was launched in 2003, and is still well remembered. MAS’ advertising campaign message is already forgotten. The 5-a-day campaign spent circa £1m per year in advertising from 2006-2009. MAS is reported to have an £11m marketing budget.
What then, relatively speaking, did 5-a-day get so right? My opinion: a simple, specific message.
When its instigators first knocked heads, I suspect they identified a broad-ranging set of issues – too much fat in diets, not enough exercise, not enough vitamins…..the list no doubt went on. But, not only did they narrow it down to vitamins, they went so far as to specify a simple “goal” for every person to aspire to every day.
The goal is no doubt simplistic. I suspect some people need more vitamins, others fewer. Some may need to worry more about fat, others protein. But, by picking a simple, specific message, they were able to cut through the noise and get it heard.
Contrast this with MAS’ messages, which range from how refreshing “free, independent, unbiased” advice is, through to how we have a savings gap. None of that will leave the average person inspired to make a major lifestyle change.
The other benefit of a single, simple message is measurability. And, with measurability, comes accountability. Accountability is MAS’ biggest failing, stemming back to its peculiar funding model – an FSA levy on financial firms. Any other choice of funding model (charity, non-profit, government-funded) would have been more effective. But, when your funders have absolutely no say in the matter, accountability disappears.
Until that changes, I fear a crap MAS is the best we can hope for.
Adam Price is the founder of VouchedFor.co.uk, which lets consumers find, rate and review IFAs.