By Walt Albro
With a limited broadcast budget, Premier Bank in West Virginia boosts viewership of ads by using 15-second ‘bookend’ spots.
Most community banks do not advertise much on broadcast television. It’s too expensive. Banks that do are constantly experimenting with ways to use the medium more cost-effectively.
Premier Bank in Huntington, W.Va., is an example of a bank that spends about one-third of its advertising budget on broadcast TV. Recently, the bank, which has assets of $900 million, has been testing 15-second “bookend” spots as a way to get “more bang for the buck” with TV advertising.
A bookend TV ad is one that appears at the start of a commercial break, followed by a second that pops up about 90 seconds later, at break’s end.
With bookend ads, the bank pays for a 30-second spot but, because it is divided into two 15-second segments, the ad has greater impact on the viewer—making the message easier for the consumer to recall.
“The beauty of it is that you create an impression in the mind that the bank is on TV a lot more than it actually is,” says Leland S. Steele, marketing manager.
Bookend ads demonstrate how Premier looks for ways to get the most leverage out of broadcast ads—despite the fact that the bank does not have a large TV budget, says Steele, who has a background with a small advertising agency.
Consolidated under one name
Premier Bank is an affiliate of Premier Financial Bank Corp., which, until four years ago, had two affiliates. The other affiliate was Citizens Deposit Bank in Kentucky. These two banks operated with separate identities in five geographic divisions. In 2011, the holding company decided to give the Premier Bank name to all of the banks in each division. Each division has its own president.
In some areas, people were familiar with the old name but not with the new one. As a result, when Steele came to the bank in 2012, one of the first things he tried to do was a campaign to get people acquainted with the new name.
Today, the bank has 24 locations, 19 in West Virginia, three in the District of Columbia, two in Virginia and one in Maryland. Many of the West Virginia locations are widely scattered small towns.
In the past, the bank did a lot of print advertising in local weekly newspapers. But of late, millennials are not spending as much time with print media. To reach them, the bank has been shifting to digital advertising. The bank still targets consumers over age 35 in print media, but in recent years it has cut back even for this cohort.
With the many separate small-town markets, Steele concluded that a cost-effective way of reaching these audiences was through broadcast television. Today, most West Virginians view broadcast TV through a cable or satellite dish channel.
When Steele needed to introduce the new bank name, he turned to a dominant broadcast station for much of the bank’s footprint: NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV in Huntington.
Steele started with 30-second spots reminding viewers that the bank’s name had changed but that its brand remained the same. It was still the same neighborhood bank where loan decisions are made locally—and where the technology is the same as that available through larger banks. Premier emphasized its local character by focusing on its involvement with community charitable activities.
After a while, Steele found that using 15-second bookend ads as a follow up to 30-second ads was effective at reinforcing the message and building frequency.
Last winter, the bank launched a business banking testimonial TV ad campaign during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Premier produced 30-second versions featuring three business customers. Then, Steele followed up with pairs of 15-second bookend ads, each featuring two different business customers. This campaign was supplemented by radio ads.
More recently, the bank launched a new deposit account, StartFresh Checking. Targeted to customers who have experienced difficulty in opening a checking account, the product was launched with a 30-second commercial. Once the product message was established, the bank switched to 15-second bookend ads. Each set of bookend ads contained one ad about StartFresh in conjunction with another bank message.
Steele says he takes reach and frequency in consideration when he makes a media purchase. Reach refers to the number of viewers who have an opportunity to see an ad during a given time period. A common measure of reach and frequency, called gross rating points (GRPs), is misleading when used with bookend ads, Steele says, since it gives the same rating for two 15-second ads as it does for a single 30-second—even though the shorter ads are broadcast twice as often as a 30-second ad. For this reason, Steele does not work with GRPs.
Steele avoids placing ads during prime time because of the cost. Instead, he targets morning times between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and late afternoon between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. “We like news sponsorships. For a campaign, we will place ads for between three to six months at a time. A lot of people tune in for news and information.”
The bank also places ads on news talk stations. Morning and evening news programs deliver the optimal audience. Some TV stations have a 10 p.m. news broadcast, where he will also place. Occasionally, the bank will participate in a local TV sports sponsorship. “We normally place on three daily newscasts. That presence gives the impression that we are on the air more than we actually are,” notes Steele.
Bill Bartlett, senior sales consultant at WSAZ-TV, worked with Steele in developing bookend TV ads for the purpose of stretching the effectiveness of the bank’s ad budget. He sees more advertisers using bookends as a vehicle for marketing messages because it is a “best of both worlds” solution for advertisers struggling with whether to create a branding campaign or promote a specific product offer. With a bookend ad, an advertiser can accomplish both, he says. “As more advertisers decide to utilize bookends, you may see television stations begin to charge a premium for them.”
Bookend TV ads are a little trickier to develop because of their length, Steele observes. “With the limited time, you have to stick with one key message. So, the message needs to be very focused and precise. You have to understand and remember the target audience you are trying to reach. You can’t overload.”
Marketers should ask the ad reps at TV stations about the availability of bookend ads, Steele suggests. These ads may not be the best solution for every financial institution. Not every station offers them, and many cable company systems cannot support them.
For the future, Steele is contemplating tying campaign TV spots with a campaign website. “We can verify how many people are viewing the ads by measuring how many people go to the websites.”
Since television is an integral part of Premier’s promotional mix, the bank takes advantage of bookend ads to stretch its TV budget. “I am billed for a 30-second ad, but I am actually running two 15-second ads, which builds the frequency and creates greater impact on the viewer,” Steele adds.
Walt Albro is the editor of ABA Bank Marketing and Sales magazine, Washington, D.C. Email: Walbro@aba.com.