In an unconventional bid for new business, Eastern Bank Corp. of Lynn, Mass., is using television to tell affluent viewers it wants their trust money.

Eastern, a $2.6 billion-asset mutual bank holding company, is airing the ads along with spots for commercial banking and electronic retail banking on six network affiliates in Boston during news and sports programs. The six-week campaign will run until early November, with TV spots appearing an average of 73 times per week.

Personal trust sales typically follow a protracted process involving referrals to affluent prospects from intermediaries such as lawyers and accountants, not a quick-hit response to an advertisement.

But the ads are not expected to bring in business on their own, said Sumner W. Jones, executive vice president in charge of its trust and investment division. Rather, the intent is to raise Eastern's profile in advance of sales calls, he said.

"What we hope it will do is set the table. It will prepare people for the ultimate message, which has to be delivered one-on-one, face-to-face," Mr. Jones said.

Eastern manages $1.1 billion of discretionary assets and oversees $1.5 billion over all. Those assets rose 13.75% over 1997 to $1.1 billion, up 13.75%. Revenues increased 7.5% during that time.

"Our competitors are primarily the large banks and large investment institutions like Fidelity," Mr. Jones said. "We've got to be viewed as playing in that league, and we think TV does that for us."

The ad is designed to dent misperceptions that trusts are only for "the rich and socially elite," he added. Eastern's minimum annual fee is $1,000, which would be a competitive rate for a $100,000 account. However, the bank targets accounts with more than $250,000.

The spot states: "You might think trusts are for people with names like 'Rockefeller' or 'Vanderbilt.' But today, personal trusts are for people with names like 'Jack' and 'Helen'-folks who've spent their lives making their money."

Along with the televisions ads-the current run is the second one this year-Eastern is airing the same three messages on billboards at major rotaries in the Boston area, at a cost this year of $700,000 for media buying, said Ronald A. Johanson, vice president and director of marketing. Total marketing expenses have been about $1.8 million each of the last three years.

Delivering a message for personal trust was a first for Eastern's advertising agency, Cohn Godley Norwood of Boston.

"They really wanted to support their trust services, and it was a whole new idea for us as well," said Paul Norwood, creative director.

"We thought, 'You know, what the hell? Let's give it a shot,'" he added.

The agency had worked on only one other ad promoting investment management: the launch of Charles Schwab & Co.'s OneSource mutual fund supermarket, which has a much broader audience than personal trust, he added.

The Eastern Bank spot is aimed at middle-aged prospects who are nearing receipt of lump sums from retirement plans.

"I don't think in the past most of those people really thought about trust funds-they're not millionaires," Mr. Norwood said.

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