Facing a serious threat to Cardtronic’s operating model, Withpr developed an innovative and unrelenting media strategy to protect both consumer interests as well as their client’s business model. The small team used a smart combination of data and independent spokespeople with clearly defined audiences to both drive media coverage and political engagement, with clear and substantial evidenced results. In a sector of loud and dissenting voices, the campaign has left a lasting legacy with key consumer influencers now fighting the cause. The judges were also impressed with the coherence and range of skills within the agency team who demonstrated excellent value for money.


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Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

There is an organisation that holds your cash in its hands. LINK is the glue that holds the nation’s ATM system together. In January ’17 they made an out-of-the-blue announcement that they would cut the interchange fee that helps fund access to cash at any ATM. Our objectives were to

  • get the public behind the issue
  • halt the decision
  • ensure Cardtronics had an influential role in any future decision on interchange

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

An analysis of the media landscape showed that 90+% of coverage around ATMs in the last year had been negative. Crimes, surcharges and outages had all been covered at length. We used this insight to identify the fact that in order to shift public opinion, we would need a clear central call to action which would reveal the impact of changes to a complex payment ecosystem on people’s everyday lives.

We also quickly gathered intelligence from the appropriate industry trade bodies and wider stakeholders to understand the context to the decision and opportunities for engagement. Analysis of the information confirmed that to exert pressure on LINK we also needed the regulator and Government to be engaged with the issue. We identified that these decisions would not be made overnight and one fast firestorm of coverage would not suffice.

Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

Creating ‘Cash Deserts’

  • Ripple Effect: We used a ripple effect strategy, creating a central meme that acted as our starting force to initiate a series of stories that grew in ever increasing influence across the year. This central meme and lynchpin of our strategy was the idea of ‘cash deserts’.
  • Strength In Numbers: We recognised that we could not fight LINK – and the banks – alone. We rallied competitors, trade associations and even another client with relevant expertise to ensure that our arsenal was fully loaded. We drew on data from all of these sources to tell the story of cash deserts and irrefutably prove our points.
  • A powerful voice: Our chosen public voice for the cash deserts campaign (the ATM Industry Association) was designed to unite organisations behind the campaign.

From the get-go this campaign was a mile-a-minute. With the timing of LINK’s announcements being firmly out of our hands, we had to respond on a hairpin. Following the initial shock announcement by LINK, we were very clear in our recommendation that only data would do. Over the course of 12 months we used our creative approach to generate a suite of six different ‘cash desert’ angles to drive influence.

Implementation of tactics:

January: On the morning of the first vote on the issue, the members of LINK wake up to coverage across the most influential media (from the Today programme to the Telegraph) with our spokesperson systematically unpicking their proposal. The vote is postponed! But we hijack LINK’s announcement on this and immediately eclipse it with our next story.  Having readied a demographics data expert, our sucker punch is a digital heatmap and news release on the quantified impact of messing with ATM economics. We highlight the heightened impact on vulnerable demographics to show the human story. 200+ pieces of positive coverage later, our client is offered a place on LINK’s newly formed working group and tells us “the banks have changed their tune”.

April: We create a rich feature pitch, lifting the lid on the impact of ‘cash deserts’ on communities around the country and land a week-long series on Radio 4 PM. 5 days and 60 minutes of airtime literally secured our spokesperson a seat at the table with an on-air roundtable alongside the Bank of England and Payments UK.

November: LINK offers new proposals to reduce interchange 5% each year for 4 years. With a rapid-fire response, we pull our data on the potential for ‘cash deserts’ focusing on rural communities. With pressure mounting we deliver a further 168+ pieces of coverage, reaching political influencers through the Debate section of CityAM and harnessing the consumer champion narratives of the Daily Mail and Which?. The call for intervention by Government was now unavoidable and Nicky Morgan MP – who leads the Treasury Select Committee  – writes a public letter to the regulator expressing her concern around ‘ATM deserts’. Withpr then secured a meeting with the TSC directly.

December: With an increasing number of voices we couldn’t take our foot off the pedal, and issued the first information about machines actually closing, making the first cash deserts a reality. The regulator issued a public warning to LINK who offered a knee-jerk concession to protect rural machines without another within 1km against. Our Daily Mail exclusive summarily dismissed the plan, revealing it would save only 1 in 25 rural machines. The TSC writes another letter to LINK and a summit to discuss the way forward includes our client.

Measurement and evaluation:

Get the public behind the issue:

  • 617+ pieces of coverage across 2017: 29% national and 31% broadcast
  • 90% with positive sentiment towards leaving the ATM system as it is
  • 353+ articles (67%) mentioning ‘cash deserts’ as a cause for concern
  • 8m reach on Twitter

Halt the decision:

  • Reduction on interchange has been stalled for 18 months
  • The new interchange proposal is staggered over 4 years, leaving space for further intervention
  • The stay of execution has saved our client significant funds

Secure an influential role:

  • Cardtronics invited to LINK working group, LINK summit and a large number of background meetings with LINK to discuss possible solutions
  • Share of voice: 84% of coverage mentions ATM Industry Association –voicebox of the campaign
  • Influential business media including FT, City AM, Radio 4 and key trades.