Advance America Buffs Image With New Ads, Online Contest

Advance America screenshot of siteLooking to distance itself from its industry's image as profiteers looking to gain from others' misfortune, payday lending firm Advance America is trying to broaden a year-old effort of being a working man's ally with a new advertising effort and online contest encouraging people to illustrate how people have helped them in times of need.

The campaign, which carries the tagline "Who is there for you?," is intended to be an extension of the company's year-old "You Advance America" effort. That effort showed workers such as a bus driver, gym teacher and paramedic doing their jobs while a voiceover saluted the work they do. "For all those days when you're behind traffic and further behind on bills. We're here for you," says the voiceover in the bus driver commercial.

"This year's campaign was intended to build on the tone and empathy of that campaign," Trudy Boyles, chief marketing officer for the Spartanburg, S.C., company tells Marketing Daily. "This is intended to engage people in a different way and re-emphasize that [our customers] are working people."



At the heart of the promotion is a contest in which consumers are encouraged to nominate, via an Advance America-sponsored microsite, people who have helped them during tough times. The grand prize for the contest, which ends on Oct. 21, is $25,000 each for the nominee and nominator.

A panel of judges will review the nominations based on their clear demonstration of assistance, the story that is told and the ability to inspire others, Boyles says. "We're looking for everyday heroes who have helped others through life," she says.

Most people only consider payday advances when they absolutely need them, Boyles says. In part, the promotion is intended to push consideration beyond that point with the intention that they will remember the company--and its "We're there for you" positioning--beyond that time of need. "It helps us become more essential in a time of need," Boyle says. "And it allows us to extend beyond those times of need."

The promotion is being touted through direct mailings, radio advertising, in-store merchandise, as well as word-of-mouth marketing and social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

The contest is also intended to broaden Advance America's appeal to help people understand that many people who use the company's payday lending service are not destitute or poor money managers--but rather people living from paycheck to paycheck, who may be between payments, says Ty Thornhill, vice president and management supervisor at Erwin-Penland, Advance America's marketing agency. "It begins to educate people who are misinformed about this category," Thornhill says.

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