Bank Of America IRA Campaign Spells It Right Out

Bank of America wants to demystify individual retirement accounts (IRA) with a $35 million advertising campaign. Ads and marketing messages began running last weekend in national print publications, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as local markets Boston and Los Angeles.

The first page of the three-page print spread asks consumers to define the acronym IRA, providing multiple-choice answers for the representation of I, R and A in IRA. The ad asks readers if I stands for Individual, Indecipherable or I give up? Does the R represent Retirement, Ron from accounting department or Roll up in a little ball and cry on the floor? The third page plays on with multiple-choice answers for the A, providing Account, Antacid and Astrophysics as the choices.

The multimillion-dollar investment represents pennies--considering that for the nine months ending Sept. 30, Bank of America reported $1.6 billion in marketing expenses, according to Christopher Mutascio, bank stock analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Company. "Banks have had a difficult time capturing the business of the pure-play brokerage house, such Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch," he says. "Banks have tried to change that view in the past. If it's working, it's happening at a snail's pace."



Mutascio says Bank of America does have a strong broad network and brand name, so if any one company can bring awareness to IRA products, clearly it can.

According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Bank of America Corp. spent $154 million for advertising--excluding* online--between January and August, compared with $171 million for 2006 and $252 million for 2005.

Bank of America's campaign will run through mid-April, and will transition into a larger awareness-building campaign and brand presence focused on the bank's broader capabilities, such as 401(k) retirement savings. The move targets the bank's nearly 16 million customers approaching retirement, as well as retirees.

The ads address retirement needs and help customers understand the benefits and choices, such as the differences and tax implications between Roth IRA and a regular IRA. They focus on IRA services, including FDIC-insured IRAs offered through Bank of America, N.A., and brokerage IRAs offered through Banc of America Investment Services.

Hill Holliday, a Boston-Based advertising and marketing firm that became Bank of America's agency of record earlier this year, developed the campaign for Columbia Management, Bank of America's investment management arm, and U.S. Trust, the bank's Private Wealth Management company. The ad agency works with Bank of America on television and print campaigns, as well as John Hancock and Liberty Mutual.

Driving the shift toward awareness for retirement plans are the 78 million baby boomers turning 52 next year, Americans living longer, fewer people saving money, rising healthcare costs and uncertainty surrounding pensions and Social Security benefits, explains John Yiannacopoulos, Bank of America spokesperson. "Many Americans feel confused and daunted by retirement plans to the point of inaction, and we can fill a need by educating them," he says.

The ads also mark an aggressive move by newly appointed Jeff Carney, Bank of America's president for retirement & global wealth & investment management client solutions, to step up awareness. Bank of America conducted extensive research, speaking with customers and the associates who serve them before deciding to launch the advertising and marketing campaign.

*Editor's note: The article was amended post-publication.

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