Bank's Media Buy Is Nothing To Sneeze At - Well, Actually It Is

In a new twist on out-of-home advertising, Commerce Bank ordered 2 million packs of tissues to distribute publicly this fall. Created by AdPack, an out-of-home agency specializing in place-based campaigns, the packs feature "Mr. C," a bulbous blue cartoon character in the shape of the Commerce Bank logo. The product includes promotional coupons for consumers who want to open a new account.

In addition to branch banks, Commerce is distributing the tissues at nationwide sporting events sponsored by Commerce and business-marketing meetings. "The biggest event they've used our product for so far was a New York Islanders' hockey game," says Steve Jacobs, president of AdPack USA. Commerce will also distribute them at venues like minor league baseball games.

Although using tissue packs as ad platforms is relatively new in the U.S., it has been an established medium since the 1970s in Japan, where the Commerce Bank packs were produced. "It's so successful and ubiquitous in society, that the retail business for facial tissues in Japan is the smallest in the world," Jacobs says, adding that he is aiming for the same level of success here. About 4 billion free promotional tissue packs are distributed every year in Japan, at a total cost of about $1 billion.

Commerce Bank isn't the first advertiser to use free tissue packs; USA distributed them in a clever promotion for "Monk," a comedy-mystery program centered on an obsessive-compulsive detective with a tissue dependency. Small manufacturers also offer customized tissue packs sporting business logos to promote every kind of enterprise, including funeral homes and psychiatric care. Commerce Bank is the first to employ free tissue packs on this scale.

In the evolving world of out-of-home media, tissues are some of the least bizarre objects to carry a corporate brand. In July, CBS used laser imprinting to etch the CBS logo on 35 million eggs to promote its new fall lineup. Master Comunicacao, a Brazilian ad agency working for an exterminating company, printed messages on lifelike rubber cockroaches that were slipped beneath consumers' doors. The point was to emphasize how easy it is for the insects to gain entry to homes.

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