Bank of America Tries Humble Approach in New Campaign

New Brand Positioning to Break During NCAA Games This Weekend

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It's been a year since Bank of America CMO Anne Finucane spearheaded a shakeup in the company's agency relationships and now the bank is unveiling the result: a new, more humble brand positioning.

Although WPP was named the bank's agency of record last May, the creative for the campaign -- which breaks via a series of TV ads this weekend during the NCAA Championship -- was done by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday. Going forward Boston-based Hill Holliday is serving as lead creative agency, while WPP shops will execute the work in global markets and handle CRM and direct mail among other things. Publicis Groupe's Starcom has remained the media agency of record.

Meredith Verdone, Bank of America's head of brand marketing, said in an interview that the new approach represents the bank trying to display some "humility" for a change.

"We are a facilitator," she said. "It's not about us. We need to focus on customer needs first and we know our place. We know we're not the center of your life, but we will connect you to what it is."

This theme of connections forms the basis of the new campaign, which sheds the "Bank of Opportunity" tag line created under BBDO and replaces it with "Life's Better When We're Connected." In global markets, the tag line will be "The Power of Global Connections," which will be utilized mostly for out-of-home and print.

In the spot "Portraits," overseen by Hill Holliday Chief Creative Officer Lance Jensen, we see 1960s and 1970s era families in a variety of situations. There are babies being born, arguing couples, new cars coming home, brushes with the law. All along, photos are being taken of the families throughout the years. The voiceover is done by actor Will Arnett, who drives home the message of Bank of America being in the background, helping people in their day-to-day lives.

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Of course, the notion of "connections" is something that is hardly specific to a bank; Google or a major telecom could easily utilize a similar positioning. Asked about why the idea would resonate with Bank of America customers, Ms. Verdone said: "We need to make it ownable and prove that."

There's a suite of about eight different TV spots, and after those break during the NCAA games, they will be supported by a digital advertising push, print ads in 16 markets, and some select outdoor.

In another spot, Bank of America emphasizes its institutional partnerships, explaining that it helpedVolkswagen to open a new plant.

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The launch of the consumer campaign coincides with a massive overhaul of Bank of America's retail branches -- outfitting them with iPads and ATMs with videoconferencing capabilities-- as well as improvements to the bank's website and mobile offerings. Bank of America claims that it's seeing 50,000 downloads a week of its mobile app.

Prior to external launch, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan has spent months speaking with employees about the importance of positioning the company for future growth and leaving behind legacy issues. He's also emphasized the need to make interactions easier and make relationships with consumers feel more human. Bank of America has never spent so much time on its internal messaging; the company feared that if it unveiled an ad campaign wouldn't be successful if it wasn't embraced by employees.

The hope is that the new internal positioning will change Bank of America's culture, while the advertising can change its reputation with consumers -- the latter which has suffered over the past several years.

A Harris Interactive poll in 2012 said the bank's corporate reputation fell more than any other U.S. company. It stated at the time: "The general public believes that Bank of America has been more concerned with operational and financial recovery than with customers and rates the bank low in levels of trust, ethics, and customer service."

Ms. Verdone is optimistic. "I think they're going to look at the ads, and look at the people in the ads and relate to them. I think they're going to see that we're behaving differently and they'll see a more human company."

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