Latest Bank Buyout Raises New Ad Questions

Citizens’ Hal Tovin to Oversee Marketing After Deal With USTrust
BOSTON–Both Citizens Bank and USTrust have employed ad campaigns portraying themselves as friendly alternatives to the region’s financial service giants.
That positioning may remain, even after Citizens’ proposed $1.4 billion acquisition of USTrust is completed early next year, said Hal Tovin, chief marketing officer of Providence, R.I.-based Citizens. Tovin will oversee advertising for the combined entity, which will retain the Citizens name.
Ingalls in Boston handles ads for Citizens; Holland Mark Martin Edmund, also Boston, works for USTrust.
Hoping to avoid an agency review, Tovin said he will “spend some time talking to Bill [Davis],” chairman of Holland Mark, but added that Ingalls chairman “Bink [Garrison] is our partner” and Ingalls is likely to remain agency of record once the deal is done.
Garrison has approached Davis about a merger of agencies, sources said [Adweek, June 21]. A deal between Citizens and USTrust would eliminate a major conflict and might help pave the way for the shops to unite.
Citizens recently hired Copernicus, a brand consultancy in Auburndale, Mass., to help with its strategic positioning, Tovin said. The results of that exercise will be applied to post-merger campaigns, Tovin said. However, Citizens’ agency of record will continue to have final say over “taglines, execution–things like that,” he said.
Citizens ads claim the company is “Not your typical bank”; USTrust portrays itself as “The other big bank.” Tovin noted the similarity in positioning and said the overall strategy will likely remain. Citizens and USTrust both have low-seven-figure ad budgets. Overall spending and TV buys will increase after the merger, Tovin said.
Citizens would become the region’s No. 2 bank, with $28 billion in overall assets. FleetBoston, formed through Fleet Financial Group’s pending acquisition of BankBoston, will have $178 billion in assets.
The latter deal also has raised questions about which roster shop–Arnold Communications or Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, both in Boston–would handle a combined ad assignment.