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OFF THE CUFF: The improvised commercials allow TD to show "more natural and human and interesting and funny reactions" than traditional advertising permits, according to Vinoo Vijay, TD's chief marketing officer.
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TD Wings It with New Television Ads

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If banks really want to get through to customers, they've got to be willing to improvise.

That's why TD Bank threw out the script for its latest television advertising campaign, "Human Truths." The lender's four new commercials feature improv performers including five members of the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade ad-libbing their way through common banking woes like lost debit cards and monthly maintenance fees.

"By using this improv approach, we're going with a lot more natural and human and interesting and funny reactions than classically scripted ad campaigns," says Vinoo Vijay, chief marketing officer of the U.S. division of the Toronto -based TD.

In one spot, a bank teller tries to justify monthly maintenance fees to a customer by calling in a maintenance repairman.

"Without your fee your checking chamber can't run smoothly," the repairman tells the baffled customer while gesturing to a generic-looking machine. "Every time you put money in, it causes, ah, deposit friction. Gotta get some fiscal lube in there."

The spot concludes by noting that TD waives monthly maintenance fees for customers who maintain a minimum balance of $100.

Another ad mocks the mind-numbing hold music that many bank clients suffer through while waiting to speak with a customer service representative. "You need a real human being, but all you've got right now is me," a singer wails off-key . The ad informs TD customers that they can reach call center workers immediately by pressing zero.

Other commercials use improv techniques to hawk TD's on-the-spot debit card replacements and its policy of keeping branches open 10 minutes past their official closing time in order to accommodate late-arriving customers. The commercials will air through August during primetime hours in TD's U.S. East Coast market, which extends from Maine to Florida.

PNC Bank used the same improv group last year in online commercials designed to entice Gen X and Y consumers to take out Virtual Wallet accounts.

TD hopes the spots will raise awareness about banking features "that are surprisingly unavailable in the industry and that we deliver better than expected," Vijay says.

The commercials aim to breathe fresh life into TD's "Bank Human, Again" campaign, which launched in early 2013 in a shift away from the lender's trademark ads featuring talk show hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. "We decided to move away from the celebrity spokesperson to a more natural representation of banking," Vijay says.

So far, Vijay says, the celebrity-free strategy has paid off for TD. Its last round of "Bank Human" ads drove 17% of growth in new checking accounts in the lender's New York City market and 14% of the growth in its top-five markets, according to Vijay.

"We were really thrilled with the way the idea of 'Bank Human Again' caught on with consumers and our own employees," Vijay says. "It spoke to the company's basic commitment to delivering a better, more human experience. We didn't want to lose that core tenant... we wanted to refresh the advertising."

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