Ally Financial Inc., the auto and home lender rescued by more than $17 billion of bailout funds, was set to begin a new advertising campaign Monday to replace commercials that portrayed competing bankers as deceptive.
The campaign for Ally Bank, the company's Internet arm, will use television, print and online ads to highlight accounts that carry no fees and high interest rates, according to a press release that Ally issued Friday.
Ally, of Detroit, formerly known as GMAC Inc., flooded the airwaves with its previous campaign, which helped attract more than $9 billion of deposits in the four quarters that ended in June.
"They have built up some sort of brand awareness with consumers and so now they can change their strategy a little bit," said Brad Adgate, director of research at the New York advertising firm Horizon Media Inc. "They likely just want to emphasize a different selling point."
Ally's chief executive officer, Michael Carpenter, has built deposits with marketing that pledged straightforward products and above-average yields while tweaking competitors for mistreating customers.
Those ads drew fire from regulators and trade groups such as the American Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America, whose members are vying for more of the nation's $9 trillion of deposits.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. told Ally to lower its deposit costs as a condition of issuing $7.4 billion in government-guaranteed debt under the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program last year.
The original campaign was started in May 2009 to introduce Ally, the name adopted after the GMAC Bank brand became tainted by GMAC's near-collapse in 2008.
The ads, created by BBH New York, featured a tall male banker who makes various offers of toys or treats to small children and then changes what they actually get. Ally promised to deal honestly.
The new ads feature a job candidate who includes his Ally account among his personal traits, and has to repeat his love for the bank's savings product three times after the interviewer misunderstands.
The interviewer repeats what he thinks he hears, each version rhyming with "Raise Your Rate" CD, the Ally certificate of deposit that allows customer a one-time chance to raise the return.
The commercial ends: "Ally. Do you love your bank?"
Ally said in the press release that it has customer satisfaction rates above 90%.
"Our approach — to be straightforward — has clearly resonated," Sanjay Gupta, Ally's chief marketing officer, said in the release.
Ally spent $25.8 million on advertising in the first half of this year, on top of more than $95 million in 2009, according to Nielsen Co., the media research company.
The change in approach may be the result of criticism Ally received on the earlier ads and shows the company may be graduating to a new phase of business strategy, said Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va.
"They certainly made a splash, but now it's time to move on," Ely said in an interview. "The gimmick rubs off after a while. And the really successful banks have found they have to compete more on service and move away from doing it just on price."
Last week The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the U.S. government was expected to raise its stake in Ally Financial to 80% from 56%.
The plan, part of the unwinding of the GMAC bailout, is for the U.S. to convert its preferred securities into common stock ahead of a stock offering expected next year.