Lloyds Share Sale Prompts 1980s-Style Bid for TV Ad Slots

Coronation Street

Actress Jean Alexander as Hilda Ogden in the television soap opera 'Coronation Street,' in Sept. 1970.

Photographer: John Madden/Getty Images
  • Coronation Street advertising slot sought by U.K. officials
  • TV ads help Osborne to recall Thatcher selloffs of 1980s

Plunging stock markets have halted Lloyds Banking Group Plc’s share offering for now, but that might give Britain’s government more time to arrange publicizing the sale on the world’s longest running soap opera.

U.K. government officials want to advertise the offer during prime-time slots on British TV, according to two people familiar with the matter. That could include programs such as music talent show The X Factor and Coronation Street, set in the fictional northern-England town of Weatherfield, which form the centerpiece of broadcaster ITV Plc’s evening schedule.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne postponed plans on Thursday to offer at least 2 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) of Britain’s 9.2 percent stake in Lloyds to consumers until market conditions improve. A global rout has sunk the shares to below the price the government paid in the bank’s 20.5 billion-pound bailout at the height of the financial crisis. The U.K. referendum on European Union membership could delay his plan further.

Securing a spot on television for an advertising campaign is part of Osborne’s plan to offer Lloyds shares in a discounted sale that recalls the privatizations of the Thatcher era in the 1980s, said the people with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. A series of booking deadlines from broadcasters are among several matters influencing preparations for the disposal, the people added.

Officials for Lloyds and the Treasury declined to comment.

Big Audience

Coronation Street “continues to be the one must-have program on the schedule,” said Grant Crymble, head of broadcast media at marketing agency The Specialist Works. Advertising in that slot would help the government to “drive broad brand awareness and deliver one of the biggest audiences on commercial TV, week in week out.”

ITV charges about 51,320 pounds for a 30-second TV commercial broadcast nationwide during Coronation Street. The show, filmed in and around Manchester, England is broadcast three times each week has been a staple of British culture since 1960, syndicated around the world from Canada to Australia. Most campaigns are booked at least seven weeks ahead of transmission.

In 1986, Margaret Thatcher’s government sold shares in British Gas Plc after an advertising campaign helped attract about 1.5 million individual investors and raised about 9 billion pounds. It used the slogan “If you see Sid, tell him,” which became famous for its effectiveness in spreading word of the sale.

YouTube: Old 80s Advert - BT Shares Sale

The U.K. government ran sober adverts for the sale of public utilities in the 1980s, such as this commercial for the British Telecom share sale

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