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MEXICO CITY-A rush of bank advertising worth tens of millions of dollars is taking hold in Mexico as banks fight against new foreign competitors and reinstate ads suspended during months of political uncertainty earlier this year.

Since Mexico's banks were privatized more than two years ago, they have modernized, restructured branches and tried to shake off the bad habits of a decade of state ownership.

Banco Mexicano's Deputy Advertising Director Javier Montes de Oca said banks are battling deep-rooted distrust. "In Mexico people say, `Which is the worst when it comes to service?'*" he said. "They never think about which bank is best."

But now, banks are on the defensive against almost 20 new domestic financial institutions authorized in the past year and 18 new foreign ones granted entry.

Mexico's largest bank, Banamex, introduced its current slogan "A new banking attitude" last year, said Eduardo De Saro, adjunct director of marketing and advertising. "We wanted to keep the sense of tradition and confidence people had, but also show that it is a bank for everyone."

During the first phase, Banamex began with an umbrella campaign and then switched to emphasizing core products such as branch outlets in supermarkets and special children's accounts. In TV, radio and magazine ads, the bank drew analogies: Its interest-bearing checking account, for example, was compared to a compass.

Banamex spends about $30 million annually in marketing, dividing its business among Arredondo de Hero, J. Walter Thompson Mexico and Augusto Elias.

Bital, formerly known as Banco Internacional, is aiming at a different target. "Fifty percent of users are young people and we have to interest them," said Ricardo Garza Anaya, Bital's adjunct director of communications.

During the first half of this year, with an annual budget of approximately $5.5 million, the bank turned to advertising products, such as a radio campaign for its small business loan. During the spot from Gaf Innotech, a frustrated caller is repeatedly put on hold by a nasal receptionist who quacks, "momentito."

In October, Bital took to the air to advertise the banks's new 8.a.m to-7 p.m. hours, playing on popular frustrations by picturing a frantic driver trying to get through Mexico City traffic before his bank closes. A national ad is expected this month for a new mortgage product.

Banco Mexicano, meanwhile, and its agency Orva¤onos y Asociados Publicidad have chosen a less down-to-earth target of corporate clients and high-income customers with a $6 million campaign associating its services with Renaissance art.

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