When Alabama-based Regions Financial Corp. merged with Union Planters Corp., it created the nation's 12th-largest banking corporation. It also created a problem: Regions Bank, although large, was virtually unknown in markets where Union Planters Bank maintained its 707 branches.
How to let Planters customers know their bank was changing its name to Regions Bank? Luckie & Company came up with a solution: Through innovative use of newspaper scatter ads in an integrated campaign, Regions could introduce itself to customers. In four dozen cities, readers opened their newspapers to find not one or two scatter ads, but as many as 40 ads spread throughout the newspaper. The high-visibility presence in Sunday newspapers coincided with the actual physical name switch at bank branches over the weekends.
Splashy. But did it work?
In spades, according to the happy client, Regions. Like the 50-year-old Luckie & Company, the bank is based in Birmingham. "It was a huge success," says Erin Tapp, director of advertising for Regions. She called it a "phenomenal" campaign. "You can have award-winning creative," Tapp says. "But if it's not implemented from a media perspective, it's not as effective as it could be."
Effective is where Jay Waters comes in. Luckie's senior vp, chief strategy officer, led the team that approached the problem with fresh thinking. Team members include Brad White, creative director; Linda Rountree, media director; Ruth Bean, account supervisor; Tripp Durrant, account executive; and print buyers Sandra Fogg and Hope Parks. The team worked with a budget of $3 million for newspaper expenditures.
"How can we quickly ramp up awareness of the Regions Bank name in those markets where it was unknown before?" Waters says. "Are there ways we can effectively use newspapers to make a big splash?" The idea was to get into as many pages as possible—every page if possible, up to 40 pages. "That was something people hadn't done before," Waters says. The result: ads ran at the bottom of news pages, three inches deep across six columns. At 40 insertions, that's equal to five full-page ads.
"That accomplished what we wanted to," says Waters. "We wanted to make sure no one who read the newspaper that day didn't know Regions had an ad." The ads incorporated imagery from TV spots that began running on Mondays in the relevant markets. For instance, in the TV spots a man sees a newspaper ad about the bank change. Luckie decided to buy a full-page ad (in addition to the page-bottom scatter ads) so that readers' experience would echo when they saw the TV ads, and vice-versa. In addition, Luckie hired five flatbed trucks to drive in convoy around the targeted markets bearing new Regions signs, providing an out-of-home dimension to the campaign.
The campaign appeared in different regions as the name change was rolled out. Before the campaign, unaided recall of the Regions brand languished in the low single-digits, between 1 percent and 3 percent, Waters says. The campaigns boosted unaided recall to a range between 21 percent and 27 percent. "We were just off the charts," says Waters.
The strategy seemed to offer bigger bang than an equivalent buy of full-page ads, Waters said. "You just feel like the scatter ads are more impactful," he said. "We're used to tuning out those five full-page ads in the middle that have skirts and shirts and such."
Regions Bank's Tapp says banks typically lose a small portion of their customers during a transition. But in this case Regions grew during conversion. "What was really spectacular was the different components and how they worked together," she says. Region workers, and even competitors, called to say they were impressed by the campaign, she says.
Tapp notes that Regions has proposed a merger with AmSouth Bancorporation, which operates more than 680 branches in the South. That means it's time for Luckie to start thinking about its next targeted blizzard of scatter ads.
Says Tapp, "We're hoping we can play off the success of this campaign, kind of tweak it a bit, and do more of the same." Todd Shields is Washington editor for Mediaweek.