Big Lender On The Loose

Associates First Capital Puts TV, Radio In Review
DALLAS–The Associates First Capital Corp. in Irving, Texas, is reviewing the broadcast creative portion of its $5-10 million account currently at FCB Direct in San Francisco, the company confirmed last week.
Associates representative Joe Stroop said the company is talking to agencies around the country about the business. FCB is defending the account, he said.
Stroop would not identify agencies or give a decision date, but insiders said Associates will be hearing presentations before Christmas. Media planning and buying are not included, according to sources, and print and direct mail are handled in-house. Stroop would not reveal the reason for the review.
The search is being headed by client senior vice president and director of marketing Mike Gade, according to Stroop. Stroop said the company has not decided whether it will expand its advertising nationally or maintain its regional approach.
FCB utilized former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw as pitchman and touted the client’s home equity loan services, the largest segment of the company. Those direct response ads, tagged “We make loans that make life better,” had heavy play in Texas, where a 1997 state referendum lifted a century-old ban on equity loans and opened up a potential $100 billion market for lenders.
According to Competitive Media Reporting, Associates boosted ad spending from $1.4 million in 1997 to $4.8 million through October 1998. The Associates is the nation’s largest publicly traded consumer finance company with $64 billion in total assets, per Hoover’s Online. The company reported year-to-date net earnings of $892 million.
One source said the client is possibly leaning toward brand advertising in 1999.
The company’s lending practices are currently under federal scrutiny. Associates also has been sued in Minnesota by consumers alleging the lender has wrongfully collected unearned interest.
–with Jane Irene Kelly