Magazine article American Banker

What Makes Perfect Pitchman? Subprime Lenders' Views Differ

Magazine article American Banker

What Makes Perfect Pitchman? Subprime Lenders' Views Differ

Article excerpt

Whether the sales pitch is delivered by Rizzuto or Marino or just plain Joe, finance companies catering to people with less-than-perfect credit seem to view television as the perfect medium for their messages.

FirstPlus Financial's recent hiring of Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino as its official spokesperson echoes the highly successful marketing efforts of Money Store Inc.

Starting with Phil Rizzuto in 1972, the Union, N.J.-based lender has used sports figures in its TV ads. The company eventually replaced the former Yankee shortstop and current broadcaster with another Hall of Famer, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer.

"It's a matter of the demographics," explains Anne Moore, president of Atlanta-based Synergistics Research Corp.

Finance companies and nonconforming mortgage lenders are targeting a lower economic income level than banks, she said. That pool of borrowers is more likely to watch television than read newspapers, and more likely to identify with a sports figure than traditional bank customers.

But hiring on a celebrity is not always a necessity, say other home equity lenders that rely on television for much of their advertising.

For smaller companies, the large fee that celebrities require is too much to swallow; many opt instead to look inside the company for actors and spokespeople.

Although FirstPlus would not disclose the amount of its three-year contract with Mr. Marino, sources said it was probably close to $1 million. "If you spend half of your advertising dollars getting a face, you won't be putting your commercial out there enough," says Mark Stabile, vice president of lending for First Finance, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich. …

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