It's do or die for the industry's image campaign.
Still $250,000 shy of its goal, the American Bankers Association has set the end of July as the deadline for raising the $1 million it needs to launch a long-awaited advertising campaign.
The ABA has spent close to $1 million from its own budget to create a series of ads and test market them on radio and television and in print. In May it sent out letters to banks, seeking additional contributions.
"If we make it we'll run the campaign, if we don't we'll send back the checks," said George Cleland, the ABA's director of issues communications.
A national campaign to refurbish the industry's image would cost much more than $1 million, but the ABA set the fund-raising goal to test its commitment. If enough banks pony up this month, the ABA will solicit banks more aggressively.
Titled "Nothing Works Like Money in the Bank," the campaign-created by McCann-Erickson, San Francisco-is the first industrywide effort in 16 years. It is modeled after other campaigns promoting entire industries, including the popular "Got Milk?" campaign.
The ABA's ads target high-income consumers, ages 25 to 45, who might otherwise place their money in stocks, mutual funds, or real estate. One ad depicts a father who learns he has no money to send his daughter to college because of a failed investment in a now-defunct theme park called "PiranhaLand."
"A better idea would have been your bank," the print ad reads, "where you find a wide range of intelligent options from CDs and mutual funds to annuities and securities."
In announcing the campaign last year, former ABA president Walter A. Dods Jr. called for "100% participation" among the nation's banks. In the May 1 letter the ABA asked for contributions of $250 to $25,000, depending on asset size.
So far, less than 7% of the industry has contributed to the campaign, according to Mr. Cleland.
ABA officials are urging bankers to open their wallets. Alice Dittman, chairman and chief executive officer at Cornhusker Bank in Lincoln, Neb., and chairman of the ABA's community bankers council, said, "All banks have some discretionary income."
"This is money well spent," Ms. Dittman said. "The question is, can you get large number of banks to buy in to this, or do they want to be freeloaders?"