PNC kicks off a new eight-state advertising campaign during tomorrow's Super Bowl extravaganza, but don't expect to see animals, celebrities, bells or whistles during the two spots running up and down the East Coast.
This is a bank, after all.
"Leading The Way" is PNC's new tagline, replacing "The Thinking Behind the Money," a phrase mothballed in 2003.
The two 30-second ads -- one is scheduled to appear during pre-game coverage on CBS and the second during the game -- feature the soft tinkling of piano keys, the faint strain of a violin and homespun images of busy families and hard-working small-business owners. A male narrator recycles the themes of ease, convenience and the concept of life as a journey, with Pittsburgh's largest bank as your guide.
"The focus is on you -- you the individual," PNC corporate marketing director Mark Hendrix said during a sneak preview of the ads earlier in the week.
The last big branding effort at Pittsburgh's largest bank was in 2000, when it unveiled "The Thinking Behind the Money" and changed its name from PNC Bank Corp. to PNC Financial Services Group as a way of illustrating its mix of businesses beyond traditional banking. Seven years later, PNC is trying to introduce itself to a new audience -- it purchased Washington, D.C.-based Riggs Bank in 2005 and last fall it agreed to buy Baltimore-based Mercantile Bankshares in a deal that gives it even more size in the fast-growing Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.
The goal of the new campaign, billed as the most comprehensive in the company's 155-year history, is to help PNC "become a really great company" while establishing the super-regional bank as an "East Coast powerhouse," Mr. Hendrix said. PNC also hopes the "Leading The Way" effort, unveiled to 200 top managers yesterday, will pump up and motivate its 24,000 workers, many of whom received $1,000 bonuses last year, costing the company $16 million.
PNC, which made a record $2.6 billion in profits last year and received some national exposure last summer during the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game at PNC Park, said the individual ads will run in markets that include Pittsburgh as well as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., -- some of the wealthiest and fastest-growing areas in the United States
It declined to reveal the cost of its marketing and advertising campaign, except to say that its 2007 marketing budget will be 50 percent higher than last year. PNC spent $23.5 million on advertising between January 2006 and November 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, a unit of The Nielsen Company.
A single Super Bowl buy in PNC's markets could cost the company $1 million to $1.5 million, according to Blattner Brunner President Scott Morgan, who calculated the total based on rates in the big metropolitan areas where the PNC ad will air. The cost of running the two spots during the most highly watched TV event of the year could be as high as $3 million, the ad executive added.
One, titled "24 Hours," begins with the footage of a family going through a familiar morning workday routine. Then, a male voice-over: "You get just 24 hours every day to work towards your goals, just 24 hours to get one step closer to your dreams. And at PNC, we are always looking for ways to help, to give you solutions designed to un-complicate your life ... so you can navigate the next 24 hours."
Free use of any ATM anywhere in the world (with certain checking accounts) and online banking are featured, as is the concept of remote check deposits during a separate "Heart & Soul" spot directed at small-business owners, where images of a baker wiping her brow and a construction worker inspecting blueprints are matched with a PNC pledge to help firms "be smarter, faster and more competitive, turning your dreams into reality."
A third TV spot -- about PNC's Grow Up Great childhood learning campaign -- is also ready for airing but will not run this weekend, according to PNC. Following the Super Bowl, PNC will roll out a series of other ads on the Internet, in newspapers and in magazines such as Fortune, Forbes, Time, Sports Illustrated and BusinessWeek. More TV ads will run over the course of the college basketball season, with Big East games and the March NCAA tournament specific targets for the bank.
Among PNC's competitors in Pittsburgh, Citizens Bank has no plans to change its slogan of "Not Your Typical Bank" and National City has no slogan or tagline but a spokesman promised a "major campaign" in one month to launch a new product designed to make "banking lives easier" for customers. Mellon Financial, which exited retail banking in 2001, is re-examining its advertising and brand as it merges with The Bank of New York later this year. For now, though, its slogan remains: "The Difference Is Measurable."
Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1752.