It's OK to Visit the Bathroom During Our Commercial, 1st Bank Says

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Banks, unlike beer or soda pop, are not known for their edgy advertising campaigns. A tongue-in-cheek spot running during Sunday's Super Bowl drives that point home.

The ad, from FirstBank Holding Co. in Denver — which markets itself as 1stBank — shows a man in a dark business suit, lounging in a leather-bound recliner, eating chips. His message is simple: you won't miss anything if you leave the room.

"If you're a 1stBank customer worried about missing one of the exciting commercials, or the game time, now would be a great time to go to the bathroom … seriously," the actor says. A bright-orange 1stBank sign hangs above his chair.

The message is wrapped in the cloak of customer service, said Brian Jensen, FirstBank's director of marketing.

"We're essentially providing customer service during the game," Jensen said. "It's about giving a free 30-second break to people to go to the restroom, or do something else."

Because the 30-second ad will only run in Colorado television markets, it costs a fraction of a typical Super Bowl TV ad broadcast nationally, Jensen said. He nevertheless declined to reveal the exact cost of the ad, which was created with the ad agency TDA_Boulder.

FirstBank is not a newcomer to offbeat ads. An earlier spot touting its mobile banking depicted a first date gone horribly wrong, while another shows a mortgage-loan applicant jumping in front of a speeding bus.

Its corporate strategy is infused with the idea of appealing to the younger generation. The $11.4 billion-asset company developed its website and mobile-banking platforms in-house, and it models its technology after Steve Jobs' modus operandi at Apple—make things as simple and easy to use as possible.

"There's not a lot of complexity with our mobile banking, and that's how we want to build our bank," Jensen said.

Some of FirstBank's marketing ploys are as edgy as its commercials. During last year's Bank Transfer Day, the Lakewood, Colo. company pushed its free-checking product by encouraging consumers to text in their bank's name. Those who did received a reply text detailing what the rival bank charged for checking accounts.

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