August 2

drive in newspaper adsNewspaper Ads The Good The Bad and The Ugly

The first thing I do when I get a newspaper in my hands is to through it looking for all the bank and credit union ads.

This is my first encounter with a bank or credit union ad promoting the availability of lots for sale in area neighborhoods.

Sure enough, there in the lower left corner of the home is a small photo of what appears to be some neighborhood.  Above the photo is the title Lot Sales and to the right are previous and next prompts to see more lots.

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Tombstone ads originally got their name from ads placed in newspapers by investment bankers when public offerings of stock.  The purpose of these ads is to announce to the public whos handling the offering and where to go for a prospectus.  No selling is allowed.  They are very formal, very boring ads thought to resemble the tombstones of the old West.

By the way, simply mentioning the rate for a year mortgage loan does not constitute an offer.  Promising no closing costs is an offer.  Simply promising st approval is a weak offer.

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Anyway, I just find it to be a very different, and strange, newspaper ad for a community bank.

Newspaper Ads The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Heres what I discovered is important to banks and credit unions in Lincoln NE and Sacramento CA during the past couple of months

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ads for HELOCs or home equity lines of credit

And thanks to my blogging partner Joe Swatek, I get to see most of the ads appearing in the Lincoln Nebraska newspaper.

Hence the title of todays blog The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

This means first getting attention, second getting read, and third generating action to open an account or at a minimum make contact with a bank employee.  Im talking about direct response marketing.

To me, looking at a pile of different ads provides a bit of insight into whats going on inside a lessthanrandom sample of an array of community banks, one megabank, and some credit unions.

Community banks and credit unions dont have the luxury of wasting marketing money on branding ads in the local newspaper.

I had to visit the banks website to see for myself.

Id hate to think the bank had novice loan officers.  Consumers assume that every bank and credit union has qualified, knowledgeable loan officers.

What I found most disturbing about my little research project was the number of ads that iled to mention a specific product or service and iled to make a valid offer.

Oddly enough, the strong offer appears in the ads awkward headline as seen above.  This credit union is promising lowrate mortgages, . in this case, with no closing costs and no points.  And to drive home the point that there are no gotchas later, the headline includes the words No catch.

The good Only five ads contained a strong offer.

The other day, awash in a pile of such ads, I got to thinking about the variety of s, messages, offers, creative s, and overall ad quality.  Branding ads are seen as a waste of money.

Given these costs, youd think that the bankers paying for these ads would want them to work as hard as possible.

General media agencies responsible for branding ads would definitely differentiate branding ads from tombstone ads while I see them as serving a similar purpose selling nothing.

Yet, among the ads studied, there were a surprising number of what I consider branding ads.  There was no mention of a specific product, no offer, no sales copy, and no call to action.  I sometimes refer to ads like these as tombstone ads.

Like a proud peacock spreading its tail for all to see, these ads are all show and no go.

This ad appeared in the March , issue of the Lincoln Journal Star

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For example, how st is st?  Does the bank offer twoday approval, oneweek approval, or what?

Maybe they should be renamed peacock ads for the strutting peacock or simply vanity ads.

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Heres an example of what I considera strong offer.

The bottom line here is very if you are going to spend precious marketing dollars for expensive newspaper ads, at least include the strongest offer possible.  After all, you are competing for customers with a lot of other financial institutions in the area.

Finally, heres an example of one of the thirteen ads withno offer.

To the casual newspaper reader, youd think that mortgage loans are, once again, the hot banking product.  But the only way to know for sure is to trudge through all ads and do some counting.

The first thought that came to mind is perhaps the bank had to foreclose on one or more builders and got a pile of empty lots that it must sell.

One has to assume that the bank is not only selling the lots but also hoping to handle the construction financing loans.

The Less Fees gets me the most.  Less than who or what?

What are noticeably missing are ads for regular savings and consumer checking accounts.  I guess weve moved on from the once heated battle over Free Checkingat least for now.

After carefully reading it, one could argue that the ad actually makes a weak promise.  Youll find it under the of the house.  It reads  For all available lots, please visit the banks website URL.

In ct, one of my biggest thrills is finding an outofarea newspaper left behind at the local coffee shop.

Whats shocking is there were more of these ads in the pile of than any other ad.

Before moving on, I should mention that this sample of newspaper ads came from banks, including one of the four megabanks, and credit unions.

Tombstonelike ads are also used by commercial realestate companies to showcase employees and announce the recent sales of highdollar property.  Major lenders frequently use them to announce partnerships with other banks for major loans or lines of credit for big corporations.

This ad appeared in the March , issue of the Lincoln Journal Star

This ad appeared in the March , issue of the Sacramento Business Journal

This ad appeared in the March , issue of The Sacramento Bee

Only the sixth item on the list is specific with the word Free but then I doubt any bank or credit union has ever charged a fee to prequalify someone.  What does prequalify mean anyway?

Heres an example of what I considera weak offer.

The bad Seven ads included a weak or ineffective offer.

Newspaper ads dont come cheap.  In most cases, the bank or credit union must pay an outside agency to create, and often place, the ad in the local paper.  And the cost for an ad varies based on , placement, day of the week it appears, use of , and number of repetitions.

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First off, Im not sure about the meaning of the ads headline  A Loan With a View.  I call this a throwaway headline as you can throw it away as it has no relevance to the ads offer or message.

I cant help myself its a requirement for a blogger about consumer banking.