More than 16 million people in the UK have savings of less than £100. Moreover, in Northern Ireland, Wales, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and North East England over half of all adults have savings of under £100. As Douglas Blakey reports, Nationwide aims to get people saving

Savings data released by the Money Advice Service are worrying and present a challenge for UK low earners. The UK’s largest building society, Nationwide, is promoting its PayDay SaveDay campaign to highlight the need to save for unexpected bills or unplanned expenses.

UK basic-rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 a year in a savings account, and pay no income tax. But around one-third of UK adults have less than £100 in savings. And in Ulster, Wales and parts of England more than half of the adult population have savings below £100.

Payday as a savings trigger

To target the UK savings crisis, Nationwide is running a major advertising campaign. The aim is simple: to persuade people not currently saving to put away a small amount of money, irrespective of which bank or building society they use.

Gemma Pauley, head of the PayDay SaveDay campaign at Nationwide, tells RBI:

“We were shocked to see the Money and Pension Service’s research. It leaves a huge number of people financially vulnerable to unexpected bills or unplanned expenses. The PayDay SaveDay campaign was born out of a desire to help people to start saving again.

“We’re using payday as a trigger for people to think about saving whatever amount they can afford, whatever their goal, dreams and no matter who they choose to save with. We want to help get people back into the savings habit and using payday as a trigger is an effective way to help focus people on saving a little each month.

“We recognise that families and young people are often the most financially squeezed so less likely to save and more likely to be living for today. Our media plan was developed using the best channels to talk to these groups.”

The campaign is one of Nationwide’s biggest of 2019. And it is one of the most carefully crafted and impressive of all bank ad campaigns this year, with agency VCCP responsible for the ads.

PayDay SaveDay : one of the best campaigns of the year

Comedy is at the heart of the PayDay SaveDay campaign. Nationwide believes that humour can engage people on a topic they know they should adopt but do not. The biggest hurdle is the need to avoid coming across in a patronising manner.

Adds Pauley: “We took our time to make sure that we were landing the savings message in the right way. We wanted to be sure that stand-up comedy was the best way for us to deliver the savings message.

“It was essential that people could relate to what we were saying in an approachable and down to earth way so we took time to research our comedians and jokes to ensure that we weren’t coming across as preaching.”

Aim is to change long term behaviour

Nationwide rejects the notion that savings rates are low due to historically low interest rates. The society believes that many families only consider saving at the end of the month. The campaign aims to make payday the savings trigger, prompting people to save at the start of each month.

As for how the society will assess if the campaign is a success, Pauley declines to set short term targets.

“We understand that this isn’t a campaign that will deliver a quick win. It is a longer term behaviour change that we’re hoping to achieve. The first wave of our campaign has been all about getting people saving, anywhere, with any bank or building society.

“We can’t measure if that has happened. We can only see if there has been an increase in our own account openings which is clearly only a small piece of the picture. Ultimately we want to see the number of people in the UK with less than £100 in savings come down.”