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Sun 27 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Banking on the success of online and outdoor

After securing the region’s biggest outdoor site, Martin Scott tells Richard Abbott he’s ready to challenge banking’s big boys

Banking on the success of online and outdoor|~|Scott,-Martin200.jpg|~|Scott... ‘Smaller agencies generally try harder because they are trying to make a mark for themselves’|~|“I hate cash, it’s so messy,” says Martin Scott, handing over his plastic to the waitress at the Emirates Towers hotel.
We have only had a round of tea and coffee but the head of marketing services for Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank insists on using his card.

For the past 90 minutes, Scott — an expat from the north west of England — has been talking fast and passionately about his job managing the marketing of one of the biggest banks in the UAE.

“I have to watch what I say,” he tells me as we wait for the bill. “I just open my mouth and out it all comes.”

Banking is big business for Arab media. Data from Ipsos-Stat, which is based on rate card sales, shows that banking spent US$258 million in the GCC and Levant countries in the 12 months to September 2005. In the UAE it is the third biggest category behind real estate and holiday resorts.
ADCB spends more than US$4 million a year on above and below the line advertising.

But if you are a sales rep hoping to pitch for a slice of that money, be warned that Scott has a clever ploy to avoid persistent callers.

He gets so many calls from reps that he saves their numbers into his mobile phone in order to identify and avoid them in the future. He shows me his phone, which houses such names as ‘Rep1’ and ‘Rep2’.

“I am a bit of a stingy marketer,” he says. “I will get response rates to all of my campaigns. I then reconcile that with my media plan to see what media works on which days.”
He is also meticulous with his agencies, using a deliberate policy of playing the market to avoid sub-standard work. “It is important that the agencies think we have options,” he says. “I will not tolerate complacency.”

Scott is a subscriber to the theory that you get more out of using a smaller agency.

“Smaller agencies generally try harder because they are trying to make a mark for themselves,” he says. “If you go with a global network you are just a percentage of their revenues. If I am working with smaller agencies, I am a bigger percentage of their business.”

After leaving school at 18, Scott joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, where he worked in customer service. It was here that he got his first taste for direct marketing.

“Whilst we were asking them questions we would work out what products they didn’t have — and then try to sell them to them,” he recalls.

In 1995 he moved to MBNA, then a fledgling operation which was about to take the UK banking scene by storm. He worked his way up the ladder after starting as a marketing executive. It was here that he developed a skill for database marketing.
But wanderlust got the better of him and he moved to the Middle East to continue his career.

“The thing about expat jobs is that it’s quite a cyclical market,” he says. “But instead of being another brick in the wall, I wanted to be my own brick.”

He took a post at the Commercial Bank of Qatar but moved to the UAE after two years to be with his partner Natasha, who works for luxury hotel chain Jumeirah.

His job with ADCB is to manage all elements of customer relations, from call centres to above the line advertising. Scott’s office is in Abu Dhabi, but he spends at least one day a week in Dubai, visiting agencies and suppliers.

“It’s not a bad drive, about an hour,” he says of his trip from Dubai to the UAE capital, before launching into a story of how it took him four hours to get home last night.

So what is his mission? “We are custodians of the brand. When I first joined, I sat down with the CEO and asked him where he wanted the brand positioned. He said local bank, international feel.”

Most drivers on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road will have noticed the bank’s colossal hoarding, which is claimed to be a world record.

At 400 metres long and 12 metres high, the billboard, located on interchange three near Dubai, is estimated to be seen by 200,000 motorists a day. It features long queues of people trying to get into an ADCB branch to secure their mortgage.

“This is a very cluttered market. Every 30 to 40 metres there is a unipole, every 10 metres there is a lamppost. So you need to think outside the box, be daring. You need to raise eyebrows,” he says.

“I said to OMD ‘get me something that will make people say wow. And they did a good job.”

He adds: “As soon as it went up I had every media house in the world ringing me up telling me they could have done it cheaper.”

Much of Scott’s focus over the coming months will be on ADCB’s website, with an emphasis on providing in-depth information and generating new customers.

“The website is going to receive a lot of my attention. The website is a massive opportunity and banks in general are not leveraging that,” he says. “Our customers don’t want to walk down the road in 45 degree heat and stand in a queue for ten minutes.

“It seems self defeating to say that I don’t want customers to talk to my staff but I am just looking to provide a better service. It also frees up our phone operators to deal with the people who prefer a more traditional style of banking.”

The online system means that anyone who enters an enquiry on the bank’s website should be called back swiftly. And just to check that this is happening, Scott receives a list of these leads and personally calls would-be customers back to check the level of service that they have received.

He leaves no stone unturned in his quest to make ADCB the consumer’s first choice for banking not just locally, but internationally too.

“I like to compare myself to the big players in the world, rather than the usual suspects,” he says. “And I want to beat them.”||**||

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