N.J. Bank Mulls Shops

NEW YORK As it fights for a foothold in the increasingly competitive regional banking arena, Commerce Bank is meeting with at least four agency finalists in a review of its estimated $10 million ad account, sources said.

The Cherry Hill, N.J., client is considering WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron United, its sibling Grey and MDC Partners-backed Cliff Freeman and Partners, all New York, and Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, per sources.

By the beginning of next week, Commerce will trim the list to two shops and hear final presentations at the end of April, with a decision expected shortly thereafter.

The 10-year incumbent, IPG’s Tierney in Philadelphia, is not defending.

The client’s most recent television work featured sitcom star Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a humorous spot with nuns. A new commercial from Tierney, scheduled for release this spring, employs talk-show hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.

A regional bank with 375 locations along the Eastern seaboard, Commerce Bank went into review in February [Adweek Online, Feb. 10], one of a string of regional bank reviews in recent months in which midsize operations try to compete with giants like Bank of America, Chase and Wachovia.

Last month, a similarly sized ad account in the sector, the $10-15 million Sovereign Bancorp, was awarded to Boston-based independent Partners + Simon, after a review in which it defeated three IPG shops—Lowe, Foote Cone & Belding and Gotham, all New York.

Sovereign had done little media advertising of late and is looking to mark itself as a major super-regional player.

TD BankNorth in Portland, Maine, which spends $5-7 million annually in measured media through local shop Via, has tried to cast itself as a “sports bank,” gaining naming rights to Boston’s famed downtown sports arena last year (renaming it the TD BankNorth Garden) and signing pro athletes like Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek as pitchmen.

Executives at the finalist agencies for Commerce either could not be reached or referred calls to the client. Client executives were unavailable for comment.