Citibank's Quirky New Duo Will Saturate The Season

As the season to spend fast approaches, Citibank this week launched a quirky new campaign to promote its "holistic" approach to rewarding points to customers for all their banking and credit card activity.

Citi's goal with its "Very, very, very rewarding" TV, print and online ads is to make it impossible for consumers ages 18 to 54 to forget the financial services giant has the most encompassing rewards program, especially as it embarks on an ambitious plan to open 1,000 new retail branches to better compete against Bank of America and Wachovia.

"Accruing reward points is particularly compelling for both acquisition of new customers and loyalty among current customers," said Bob O'Leary, managing director of global advertising, in a press release. "This campaign is designed to show just how rewarding a relationship with Citibank can be."

The new ads feature two quirky characters named Roman and Victor. They are directed by Jared Hess, whose talent for the offbeat and film-directing credits ("Napoleon Dynamite," "Nacho Libre") plus a virtually nonexistent commercial reel made him the first choice of Citi agency Fallon in Minneapolis. Fallon, a Publicis-owned agency, has been Citi's agency of record since 2000. It shares media planning and buying duties with WPP's Mediaedge:cia.



In each of seven TV spots, Roman, a vaguely Eastern European entrepreneur with a heavy accent, is determined to be the ultimate points earner. Roman demonstrates all of the various ways in which he earns points--swiping his credit card, banking online, booking flights and paying his mortgage--while Victor, his dweeby seemingly American sidekick, tracks Roman's points by flipping numbers on what looks to be a homemade tote board. All spots and print ads close on Roman saying, "Rewarding. Very. Very. Very. Rewarding."

Ads air during Major League Baseball's World Series and popular prime-time cable and network programs including Fox's "Prison Break," ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and NBC's "The Office."

Citi spokesperson Mark Rodgers says a robust campaign Web site will launch in the fourth quarter, accompanied by an online campaign on lifestyle, cooking and travel-related sites.

Print ads feature Citi's "Thank You Rewards Network" logo and either a four-page insert or two-page spread in Time, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Glamour, People and Sports Illustrated.

Like most financial services companies, Citi has moved a large portion of its media spending to the Internet. While declining to divulge specific numbers, Rodgers said Citi would increase spending during the fourth quarter which, he noted, "is a big consumer purchasing period." The campaign is scheduled to run through March.

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