GREAT WESTERN BANK TOUGHENS AD STRATEGY

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Dennis Weaver, who portrayed Chester on CBS' "Gunsmoke" and later starred as a detective in NBC's "McCloud," has been canceled again, this time from his role as ad spokesman for Great Western Bank.

The actor's 14-year stint at Great Western has fallen victim to the more retail-oriented outlook sweeping the banking industry, and a more hard-nosed marketing team that is revising the ad strategy at Great Western, based in Chatsworth, Calif. That shift will affect media used as well as ad creative, and include a greater emphasis on database marketing.

Dennis Shirley has moved swiftly since becoming senior VP-marketing director at Great Western less than a month ago. Mr. Shirley previously was VP-advertising director at First Interstate Bank. At Great Western, he succeeded Michael Aarons, who left the bank.

Mr. Shirley said the long-running Weaver campaign will be replaced this fall by new work yet to be developed by Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles.

RETAIL POSITIONING

The goal is to move Great Western away from traditional bank branding ads and into a more retail positioning, Mr. Shirley said.

"Some products will be [advertised as] loss leaders" in the way supermarkets have specials to hook customers, he said. In an effort to build a relationship with consumers, Great Western will waive fees and price products such as checking accounts on the "share of wallet" consumers have with the bank.

In addition, Mr. Shirley will drop the $3 million to $5 million Great Western has been spending on sports marketing efforts ranging from signs at stadiums to sports promotions.

"If [attendees] can't consume your product at the venue, you don't belong there," he said. Instead, that portion of the bank's $25 million to $30 million budget will go to direct marketing.

"We are trying to quantify our return on every dollar spent on marketing," Mr. Shirley said, with the initial ratio set at 3-to-1. "Every $100 spent on advertising should produce $300 in revenue."

QUANTIFYING AD RESULTS

The goal will be lifted into the 8-to-1 to 10-to-1 range as the new team gains experience, he said. Mr. Shirley believes the tools exist to verify and track these ratios.

Mr. Shirley said his first task in office has been to restructure his department, including the creation of a "data mining" group to concentrate on database marketing.

He denied, however, recent rumors that the bank was about to part with Dailey.

"We have not fired Dailey," he said. "We have not given them notice. We have not hired an outside consultant."

Great Western Bank, with 400 branches in California and Florida, is the second-largest savings institution in the U.S. measured by assets. It is a subsidiary of Great Western Financial Corp., with $44 million in assets and 4.5 million customers at 1,190 mortgage lending, retail banking and consumer finance offices nationwide.

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