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TD Banknorth Bows 'Bank Freely' Mantra

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BOSTON Via has unveiled a campaign in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that introduces TD Banknorth's no-ATM-fees card and bows the theme line, "Bank freely."

The launch represents the largest, most integrated marketing effort to date for the bank, according to Via, an independent shop in Portland, Maine. Moreover, the client claims the no-ATM-fees card is the first offering of its kind by a major U.S. bank.

Spots promise "No ATM fees. Any bank. Anywhere," as Andy Williams' rendition of "Born Free" is heard on the soundtrack. Consumers sing along, and in one ad bankcards fly into a maternity ward.

The effort kicks off today with two 30-second commercials that mark the first network TV foray by TD Banknorth, as well as commuter-line advertisements in the greater New York and Philadelphia areas. Print launches in newspapers and lifestyle magazines later this week.

"'Bank freely' is more than a new positioning, campaign or product launch; it's representative of an agency-client partnership that goes far deeper than just creative execution and media buys," said Greg Smith, Via's chief creative officer.

In an effort to stay competitive and establish itself in markets beyond New England, the bank doubled its ad spending last year to $15 million, per TNS Media Intelligence. The media expenditure supporting the "Bank freely" push was not disclosed.

The launch constitutes a broad strategy shift for TD Banknorth, which of late has positioned itself as the region's sports bank in ads featuring Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and other players from New England teams.

TD Banknorth for the past several years has battled to distinguish itself from national competitors such as Bank of America and other regional players including Citizens Bank and Sovereign Bancorp. Indeed, Smith noted that "Bank freely" is as much about business strategy and product development as it is about advertising.

BofA has mainly focused on its huge network, while Citizens has touted customer service and Sovereign has played up various product offerings.