Gearon Hoffman Wins Compass

Compass Bank has se lected Gearon Hoffman for advertising, after spending 15 years with Hurley, Chandler & Chaffer.

Compass’ budget is estimated to be in excess of $3 million, a substantial increase over the bank’s recent spending. Compass is attempting to better compete against national players (FleetBoston, Citizens Bank) and local institutions such as BankNorth.

After speaking with about a dozen agencies, the bank narrowed the list to five contenders: Gearon Hoffman, Clarke Goward, Partners & Simons and Kelley Habib John Integrated Marketing, all of Boston; and incumbent Hurley, Chandler, based in Providence, R.I.

“We felt that all the contenders were strong,” said Susan Nelson, assistant vice president, advertising and communications manager for New Bedford, Mass.-based Compass Bank. “It was a long process, but we felt that [Gearon Hoffman] could give us the creative platform we were looking for.”

The pitch focused on new strategies and concepts for the bank. A second cut took place after the pitch, leaving Gearon Hoffman and Hurley, Chandler as the finalists.

“It was difficult to break ties with an agency we’ve worked with for so long, but it was time,” said Nelson. “Gearon showed they could target our core audience, and has a great understanding of our company.”

An integrated campaign, including broadcast and print executions, is scheduled to break in July. Hurley, Chandler will complete existing projects during the transition period, Nelson said.

“[Compass is] growing at a very steady rate, and we’re very optimistic about them developing in Massachusetts,” said Gearon Hof fman president Bob Hoffman.

A Hurley, Chandler print push unveiled last month touts the bank’s checking accounts and equity programs. Compass Bank does not use a tagline. Last year a broadcast effort with the line, “Life can be hard, so we make banking easy,” aired in the Providence market.

Gearon Hoffman’s client list in cludes Brown & Co., Boston’s Museum of Science and Tufts Health Plan.

Compass Bank, a unit of Seacoast Financial Services, has $3 billion in assets and 40 branches, mainly in southeastern Massachusetts.