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Merve takes an ethical swerve

Some of my friends see managing the stars of the Halifax/ Bank of Scotland advertising campaign as a cushy job and it can be a lot of fun but it can also be stressful and is definitely not 9 to 5. With a team of just two people – myself and the most organised lady I know, Charlotte Haigh – managing five existing star colleagues and now eight new ones, life is never dull.

With a week to go before the new TV ad for our personal loan products goes on air, things are getting hectic. It is normally a busy time before a new ad, with one or two colleagues starring in it but this one has Howard Brown with eight new star colleagues – Santosh, Stacey, Charlotte, Fiona, Barry, David, Neil and Sean.

They have been through first auditions, where 1,600 people sang in front of a camera. Then 10 girls and 10 boys were taken to London for two days of voice coaching and choreography before a final audition in front of a panel of judges including our own Howard Brown and Capital FM&#39s Pop Idol Judge Neil Fox.

The eight went out to India with Howard to film the new TV commercial. Now before it goes on air there are lots of last-minute details to finalise.

Tuesday – the group have all come from branch or office jobs around our network and are now facing a very different situation that can be very exciting but also a little frightening – soon they are going to appear on national television. We knew this would trigger some media interest so we planned a day of media training for the group.

We got everyone together for a day and discussed styles of interview and how to deal with questions. They have never been interviewed before and did not think they had anything the media would be interested in, so just discussing what had happened to them over the last month made them realise they had a story to tell.

Wednesday – this morning, the group were on trains and planes back to different parts of the UK and I was back in the office to sort out the production of the CD the group recorded last week. The CD, featuring the group singing the Liberty X track Just A Little and the soundtrack from the commercial, will be available in our network from mid-May to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief – the HBOS Foundation&#39s Charity of the Year and HBOS has agreed to match whatever we raise from the CDs. The CD cover and the counter display to go in branches look good.

Angela Anderson, the Bank of Scotland star colleague, who appeared in a previous ad with Howard, is busy visiting branches around Scotland at the moment, meeting colleagues and customers to promote our products and services.

Today, I have to discuss with colleagues in Scotland, which branches Angela and Howard will visit over the next few months. An added bonus from the new group is that, with eight people, we cover many areas and, with Fiona from Dunfermline, I am able to suggest she visits some branches with Angela during May and June to create more impact.

Thursday – the press releases about the eight stars need to be approved and ready to go to their local media. I have discussed the information with each of them and, when the release is written, I email them the draft copy for approval. Luckily, there are not too many changes – the girls wanted a couple of years knocked off their ages but I think they were only joking.

Friday – Everything seems to be in place, the CDs are being produced, and the press releases go out today. The video of the new commercial was shown to all colleagues throughout the network on Wednesday morning via our company-wide business TV programme and we have already begun to receive great feedback. Everyone loved the ad and requests were coming in for the stars to visit branches to promote the loan products.

Monday – After a weekend interrupted by calls from the stars asking for confirmation of when they could see the ad on television, it was back to work. All the stars are planning parties for family and friends for Monday night to celebrate the commercial on TV. They have all seen it on video but being on the television for millions of people to see is very exciting for them.

The group have great things planned for tonight. Neil is going over to Belfast to celebrate with Barry and his family, Fiona has champagne on ice and all her family gathering, while Sean is taking over his local pub with around 200 friends coming in to see the ad. Stacey, Charli, Santosh and David are also having family and friends round to watch.

The ad is going out during Coronation Street in some areas but the main national slot is during I&#39m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here! I just hope none of our stars wants to get out after the next few weeks as they are recognised in the street and featured in their local papers.

Peter Williams is corporate communications manager at the Halifax

“I&#39ve turned into a curtain-twitcher. I can&#39t wait to get my neighbourhood watch stickers.” – Association of Investment Trust Companies PR executive Jemma Jackson.

Call this column old fashioned but the Diary wants its Co-op ethical investment chiefs steeped in an old-fashioned Mancunian belief in the good of their fellow man. In the week that saw Co-op get positive coverage for giving up £4.4m in profits through an ethical stance that made £30m, head Mervyn Pedelty veered dangerously close to a Gerald Ratner moment.

Merv was doing fine, describing how you can be ethical and make a profit at an Edinburgh conference last week until former Next and Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Brian Pitman commended him on carving out a good niche and working it well. But rather than do what most other ethically orientated organisations do – tell everyone else to be ethical too – Merv wants to keep the golden goose himself. “Let&#39s hope no-one else can copy us in our niche,” quipped Merv.

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