Citizens Bank Defines ‘Good Citizenship’

Citizens Financial Group is launching a new advertising campaign today (Wednesday), aimed at strengthening consumer “trust” in the brand.

The commercial bank holding company, whose subsidiaries include Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and RBS Citizens, N.A., is running new TV, print, radio and online ads with the tagline, “Good banking is good citizenship.” Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles. (The agency won creative chores on the account, following a review, in December.)

One 30-second spot alternates between a modern and historical town hall meeting where participants discuss the meaning of the word “citizenship.” It opens with a man (in the present) pointing out that, “We all agree on one thing: that our country was founded on citizenship.” It then shows the nation’s founding fathers and consumers from all walks of life agreeing that banking is an extension of that value. The TV spot will air during this month’s season nine finale of American Idol.

The push comes as banks try to regain trust with consumers following the U.S. economic crisis. Financial firms like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have introduced ad campaigns touting their ability to help consumers with tough financial decisions in trying times. But the sector is still recovering from its tarnished image.

Theresa McLaughlin, group evp and CMO of Citizens Financial Group, said the new campaign stemmed from research that showed 78 percent of consumers want to do business with companies that have “shared values.” “[That number] was a key stat for us as we put this campaign together,” she said, adding that “price and convenience” were traditional drivers for the category. But now it’s about doing business with a bank that holds similar beliefs with a consumer and that’s why “we’re exposing our values and our credo to prospects and consumers,” she added.


The new campaign builds on a previous one, which focused on the idea of “one good citizen helping another.” Citizens Financial Group, which spent $20 million advertising Citizens Bank last year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co., considers this to be one of its “most comprehensive” ad campaigns to date. “We have a lot of brand equity in being a good citizen by providing [great] service to our customers and being involved in our community,” McLaughlin said. “[This effort] is giving people a fresh look at who we are.”

In June, Citizens Financial Group will run station dominations in major metropolitan cities like Boston and Philadelphia. The financial firm will also post ads on “an unused storefront property along Market Street in Philadelphia,” said Citizens Financial Group rep Nancy Orlando. Another component includes a homepage takeover on Philly.com, the city’s dominant news site, McLaughlin said.

Scott Morgan, president at Brunner, a Pittsburgh-based ad agency that works with clients like the American Bankers Association, said the campaign is “a refreshing take on what banking can be—the antithesis of the corporate conglomerate where ‘greed is good.’”

But at the same time, Morgan said, Citizens Financial Group is a major bank holding company, which makes one wonder if it can “really deliver that level of ‘citizenry.’” One solution around that might be a social media component where consumers can “share their thoughts on what it means to be a good citizen,” Morgan said. That way, consumers can decide for themselves how the bank “stacks up.” Otherwise, Citizens Financial Group runs the risk of “being construed as another big bank trying to look small and community-focused,” he said.