AmSouth Selects Austin Kelley

Austin Kelley Advertising has won the creative portion of AmSouth Bancorporation’s $18-20 million account.

The Atlanta shop, a member of the Interpublic Group of Cos., bested co-finalist Luckie & Co. of Birmingham, Ala., for the business. Ames Scullin O’Haire in Atlanta and Cramer-Krasselt in Orlando, Fla., were eliminated in an earlier round. AKA’s sister shop, Initiative Media in Atlanta, will continue to handle media planning and buying.

Terry Slaughter, president of longtime Birmingham incumbent Slaughter Hanson, assisted in the review process.

Dave Rickey, AmSouth representative, called the final decision difficult.

“All the firms showed some very good creative work and examples of strategic abilities,” Rickey said. “But Austin Kelley had the ability to understand our markets, which they already operate in.”

Birmingham-based AmSouth op-erates 600 branches in six states in the Southeast, primarily Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Expansion plans, Rickey said, call for opening 30 locations in Tennessee, Florida and Louisiana.

“We’re looking at a heavy retail piece of business,” said Rod Hanlon of Atlanta’s Wanamaker Associates, which conducted the review.

One challenge AKA faces is developing a more aggressive creative product without departing from the bank’s friendly tagline, “The relationship people.”

“This isn’t a broken brand,” said AKA president and chief executive officer Jay Shields. “It needs to continue to evolve and refresh itself. But competition is more aggressive now among midsize banks, and we need to be as well.”

Shields cited his shop’s experience in building brands within a retail environment as one reason for the account win.

“The challenges are unique from one market to the next,” Shields said. “If you’re the market leader in one state, you focus on branding. If you’re new [to the market], you use promotions.”

AKA’s initial assignment will involve creating promotions for checking accounts in new markets. The agency will add television to an existing mix of print, collateral and radio in high-density markets.