PNC Marketing Drive Sparks Ad-Spending Bonanza in D.C

By Sundaramoorthy, Geeta | American Banker, October 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

PNC Marketing Drive Sparks Ad-Spending Bonanza in D.C


Sundaramoorthy, Geeta, American Banker


Almost five months after entering metropolitan Washington, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. has been working at a relentless pace to build its brand, fueling a marketing frenzy.

Competitors, including SunTrust Banks Inc., say they have been forced to boost their advertising spending.

"We have all kicked up our marketing budgets like crazy," said Peter F. Nostrand, SunTrust's chairman, chief executive, and president for the greater Washington area.

Since mid-May, when it bought Riggs National Corp., PNC has sponsored the Washington Nationals baseball team, organized an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings, and splashed advertising all over the regional media about charging no fees for using foreign automated teller machines.

Matt Carter, senior vice president for strategic marketing and branch management, says the Pittsburgh company is spending 25% more in D.C. than in established markets like Philadelphia. "We had to go in there and immediately establish who we are and what we stood for," he said.

The company declined to reveal its marketing budget for the D.C. area, but spokesman Brian Goerke said, "This is the largest one-time marketing investment that PNC has ever made in a single geography." It spent a total of $25 million on marketing in the second quarter, about as much as in the year-earlier quarter.

PNC bought Riggs on May 13 for $650 million after months of speculation as Riggs worked its way through several regulatory issues, including allegations that it violated the Bank Secrecy Act. PNC converted Riggs' systems and changed signage in the branches in just a weekend; even competitors admired the unusually speedy job.

Customers are seeing not only PNC's and SunTrust's ads but more from Wachovia Corp., Bank of America Corp., and Chevy Chase Bank.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Wachovia, B of A, and SunTrust held the top three spots in the Washington metro area, sharing 35% of the market, as of June 30, 2004. (That is the most recent data available.) Excluding E-Trade and Capital One, the fourth through sixth spots belong to Citibank, Chevy Chase, and Riggs.

Riggs had just 3.65% of the market.

PNC has plans to add 51 branches in the D.C. market, including seven that were to open by yearend.

Mr. Carter said it was important for PNC to let customers know that it is here for the "the long haul and is not a flash in the pan. …

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