Declares Its Primary Business Is Multicultural

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NEW YORK ( -- Bank of America is quadrupling its multicultural marketing budget to more than
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$40 million this year after examining forecasts of where 80% of the decade's population growth will come from.

"The company made a very strategic decision looking at the [bank's] top three regions -- Texas, Florida and California," said John Villanueva, Bank of America's multicultural brand and communications manager. "Instead of being part of the business in these regions, multicultural really is the business."

The bank's multicultural push, however, will include national as well as regional advertising and will break between now and June 10.

Attention to nuance
Rather than taking a single multicultural approach, however, the country's No. 3 bank developed significantly different messages for the Hispanic, Asian and African-American markets, based on customer research and close attention to cultural nuances.

Spanish-language print and five commercials focus on helping Hispanics fulfill their dreams, Mr. Villanueva said. Ads end with "We believe in you." Print ads feature individuals talking about what they believe in.

For Asians, the brand platform is

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"tangibly committed to the success and growth of all Americans" and ads end with "Our bank." Commercials shot in China, Korea and Vietnam, the beginning of an immigrant's journey, are steeped in metaphors and nostalgia. One spot that flashes back to a boy teaching his younger brother to ride a bike in his homeland parallels with the helping hand today of Bank of America with a mortgage. To convey authenticity, the bike is the exact kind an Asian child would learn to ride, not an American kids' bicycle.

In contrast, one of the Hispanic spots opens on an exaggerated stack of mortgage-related paperwork the size of a house and details how Bank of America can reduce it by 80%.

Native language
The ads will run in the appropriate Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese to target consumers who prefer to communicate in their native language. Mr. Villanueva estimated that the group represents 30% to 50% of his target market of Hispanics and Asian-Americans between ages 29 and 54.

For the African-American market, the brand platform is "helping African-Americans realize their financial destinies" and includes tips to simplify the financial process, such as "Start today" and, for mortgages, "Own it."

For each ethnic group, ads cover branding and two products: mortgages and checking accounts. Bank of America works with Hispanic agency Lopez Negrete Communications, Houston, and WPP Group-backed Kang & Lee Advertising, New York, and UniWorld, New York, for Asian and African-American ads, respectively.

Their work is very different from the general market campaign, themed "embracing ingenuity" and handled by Bozell, New York, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. Bank of America's general market advertising budget was $167.4 million million last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Mr. Villaneuva said spending on the multicultural effort would be additional to the general market push.

Bilingual staff and phones
In addition to advertising, the multicultural budget covers a "soup-to-nuts" range of activities from in-language brochures to sales and fulfillment, with bilingual staff for offices and phone lines, Mr. Villanueva said.

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