FirstBank Ad Campaign Takes Swipe at Congress

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FirstBank in Lakewood, Colo., is comparing itself to an institution that makes nearly anyone look good: Congress.

In a new billboard advertisement focused on its mortgage lending, the $12.8 billion-asset unit of FirstBank Holding takes a not-too-subtle swipe at the legislative branch and its inability to get things done.

"Unlike Congress, our mortgage officers meet deadlines," reads the ad, which was created by TDA_Boulder, FirstBank's longtime agency. The ad currently appears on a lone billboard in the Denver area, though the bank has plans to replicate the sign throughout the metropolitan region.

Dave Baker, FirstBank's president, says the company uses thought-provoking ads to draw attention, including, in this instance, to the responsiveness of its applicants for mortgage loans. "Different kinds of deals have different time frames, and we understand that and we're doing a good job of meeting those," Baker told American Banker. "We though the ad, in today's environment, where Congress basically continues to kick the can down the road on our budget and debt issues, was a humorous way to do it, and that most people would understand that it was topical."

Baker adds that the billboard is "in the same vein" as other tongue-in-cheek ads by FirstBank, including a spot the bank aired on local television during timeouts of last year's Super Bowl telecast that told viewers it was okay to visit the bathroom.

The bank's agency pegs the ad to a poll released recently by Public Policy Polling that found 85% of Americans view Congress in a negative light. Congress is less popular than traffic jams (56% to 34%) cockroaches (45% to 43%), and the band Nickleback (39% to 32%), according to the poll, although the institution topped Lindsay Lohan (45% to 41%), playground bullies (43% to 38%) and the Ebola virus (53% to 25%).

"In general, it's not meant to be cruel, it's simply pointing out the obvious, which is that if you and I kept delaying responsibility for our jobs there would be consequences," Jonathan Schoenberg, TDA_Boulder's executive creative director, said. "The bureaucracy that impedes D.C.'s ability to get things done definitely doesn't apply to the process of FirstBank, which has a remarkably quick and fluid process."

While financial institutions have their own image problems, the public reserves slightly more esteem for banks than it does for Congress. According to Gallup, 9% of Americans place a great deal of confidence in banks, while just 6% have a similar level of confidence in Congress.

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