Financial jargon has a tendency to discourage bank customers from asking too many questions. A playful new ad campaign for Beneficial Mutual Bancorp (BNCL) aims to make clients feel more comfortable admitting what they don't know by poking fun at often-baffling terms like "escrow."

The Philadelphia company uses visual humor to riff on banking buzzwords in a series of print, radio, television and social media ads.

The bank's Facebook page features an image of a black-feathered bird wearing a tank top embroidered with the letter "S." "Escrow?" reads the accompanying text. "Until you know what it really means, it doesn't mean much."

"We flew a live crow and his trainer in from Georgia for the TV spot, and shot him on a telephone wire, wearing his shirt," says Joanne Ryder, Beneficial's executive vice president and director of brand and strategy.

For a TV ad tackling the term revolving debt, Beneficial built a miniature carousel complete with models of a car, a hot tub, a graduation cap and an engagement ring. An online ad about overdraft protection pictures a windblown woman tethered to a streetlamp as autumn leaves and newspapers scatter in the gale.

"We're making fun of these complicated banking terms that the average person may hear," Ryder says. "The idea is to get a dialogue going about the terms and how understanding what they mean can impact people's lives in a positive way."

The $4.7 billion-asset company has also picked a new tagline, "Your Knowledge Bank," to remind customers that it trades in information as well as loans and deposits.

The moves are part of its efforts to emphasize its role as an educational resource. It began rolling out branch "campuses" in 2010, featuring libraries stocked with financial materials, iPad research stations and long seminar-style tables for sessions on saving for college or buying a home.

"We know in this day and age that customers don't necessarily have to go into a bank, but we're still encouraging people to come in and build a relationship," Ryder says. "We want people to use us as an advisor."

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