Magazine article American Banker

Comment: Your Ads Can Have Substance without Dangerous Specifics

Magazine article American Banker

Comment: Your Ads Can Have Substance without Dangerous Specifics

Article excerpt

Lots of readers disagreed with my suggestion in last week's column that the public would appreciate bank ads that include specifics like check clearing speed, service fees, mortgage points, and credit card charges.

One response -- e-mailed from a laptop during an airport layover -- hit particularly hard and altered my thinking substantially.

"I am taken by your naive column," wrote the chief executive officer of a New Jersey bank. "Do you really expect banks, or any other profit-making enterprises, to address anything potentially negative in paid advertising?

"Pay for space to announce my fees? Even Burger King wouldn't do that. Give me and everyone else a break."

An attorney for a community bank said that including specific numbers in ads "could be dangerous" from a legal standpoint. "If my bank advertises one rate and then charges a customer another, he may be able to use our ad as a precedent to prove in court that we are overcharging him. In these days in which lawsuits are initiated at the drop of a hat, this is a serious matter."

The chief lending officer of a third institution simply laughed at the idea of advertising fees and interest rates.

"Every loan is different," he said. "There are different risk factors, cash flow data, levels of balances maintained in the bank, and the number of other lucrative bank services used. How can we advertise specific fees and rates under such conditions?"

A marketing specialist put it this way: "Generally the people who would look at such specific ads and try to shop for the best rate are the people we are not that anxious to solicit. …

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