On the television screen Vivian Taylor speaks from the heart of how her parents sacrificed to send her to college. "When people save money the way my parents did, it's an expression of love," she says.
Taylor fades from the screen and next appears the distinctive trademark of 1st American Bank, and with it the gentle, rich voice of a narrator. "We share your values and will help you save for college. We're First American. The bank for all Americans."
Four years ago, the name First American Bank was lost in the din of a crowded marketplace, languishing behind six or eight other local institutions for what marketing experts call "top-of-the-mind" awareness, according to Bruce Genther, a First American spokesman.
But after a clever television advertising campaign, beginning with a series of tongue-in-cheek historical skits that feature TV personality Willard Scott as George Washington and other American heroes, First American's marketing studies show a much improved public awareness of the company.
The ad campaign was designed to convey a "warm and fuzzy" feeling about First American, Genther said. Indeed, one videocassette tape from the company's ad agency has "1st American warm and fuzzies" on the label. A set of commercials about immigrant families ends with this voice-over: "Nearly every family can trace its heritage to one bold 'first American.' We salute the spirit of first Americans who made this country their own."
That First American's holding company is owned by investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates is an irony lost on most customers, Genther said. "We're sensitive to the issue of being foreign-owned. We know that the marketplace knows that . . . we've never shied away from that."
The television commercials were designed by the firm of Goldberg, Marchesano, Kohlman Inc. Carol Marchesano said the ads are designed to get consumers to come to know, like and trust First American. Subliminally, she said, the ads are intended to reach out to low- and middle-income depositors who might feel ignored by other advertising campaigns aimed at more affluent depositors.
Marchesano said the patriotic theme flowed from the company's corporate name. "The name is First American," she said. "So that is the most natural thing for us to promote -- those things American, like the family values, like apple pie and the American flag."