Faced with an invasion by out-of-state giants, some Colorado banks and thrifts are fighting back.

Their weapon: provocative advertising campaigns stressing that their rivals are outsiders.

Typical is a radio ad by First Federal Savings Bank of Colorado, a $1 billion-asset thrift based in Lakewood.

A customer telephones his bank only to find that the company has changed its name. "Vast Outastate Bank, the bigger we are, the smaller you are," a bank operator replies. The customer then asks to speak to the bank president, only to hear: "The new president hasn't arrived from the East Coast yet."

Playing the Local Angle

First Federal also ran print ads comparing its fees, services, and charges with those of its larger rivals.

Another example: Golden-banks of Colorado appealed to sports-minded Denver-area residents in a print ad alluding to two giant competitions from Minneapolis: "Would you rather bank in the Colorado Rockies or with the Minnesota Twins?"

The $275 million-asset bank also put up billboards saying: "Has your bank withdrawn from Colorado?" and "We call our own shots, not Minneapolis."

The ads are primarily aimed at the three biggest outsiders -- Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One Corp. and the Minneapolis companies, First Bank System and Norwest Corp.

|Trying to Counteract'

Since Colorado passed an interstate banking bill five years ago, out-of-state companies have snatched up more than 60% of the state's share of bank and thrift deposits.

"Small banks are trying to counteract" incursions by superregionals, says Glen Pray, president and chief executive of $180 Mountain States Bank, a million-asset Denver institution.

Will the ploy work? Maybe not, according to some experts, noting that such campaigns have been waged elsewhere.

"It is often merely an ego-gratification strategy for the local bank, and is not necessarily helpful, particularly if it is not well-directed," says Barry Deutsch, a marketing consultant based in Ford Lauderdale, Fla.

And for their part, the giant competitors dismiss the ads as ineffective. Such campaigns by independent banks are "predictable," and have "absolutely no impact whatsoever on our customer base," says Banc One spokesman John Russell.

"We love to see them run those ads because they are spending money on things that don't make a difference."

Still, market research conducted by Goldenbanks found that 32% of 400 new accounts opened from June 2 to July 24, were opened as a result of the advertisements. First Federal said its ads brought in some new business, too.

"We have had without a doubt the biggest response from both customers and noncustomers of any campaign we have ever done," says Scott Gagon, president of Goldenbanks' lead bank.

Goldenbanks seized on the hometown campaign after its franchisee contract with Los Angeles-based First Interstate Bancorp expired in January.

Fighting Fire with Fire

Norwest has picked up on the theme. The bank recently ran television commercials featuring Norwest loan officers engaging in a variety of typically Coloradan activities.

The Norwest ads were designed to appeal to the bank's business borrowers. They picture Norwest bankers in four Colorado vistas, including a ski slope and a dude ranch.

"Our goal is to get our story out," says Steve Caldwell, manager of advertising at Norwest's Denver unit.

Stressing Advantages Helpful

Experts say hometown campaigns can be successful if they communicate specific benefits to consumers.

"The bottom line is that for a depositor the location of the bank's headquarters is almost irrelevant," says Mr. Deutsch, the marketing consultant. "But for a borrower, there can be an advantage to being local."

Over the past few years hometown campaigns have been tried -- with varying degrees of success -- from New York to Seattle, according to the Bank Marketing Association.

|Frontier Mentality'

Ad execs say the success of their campaigns for local banks stems to no small degree from qualities peculiar to the state.

"Colorado is a kind of parochial place," says Mike Jordan, who created First Federal's "Vast Outa-state" campaign.

"Colorado has a very independent, frontier mentality," says George Pollack, who designed the Rockies-Twins ads for Goldenbanks.Out-of-State GiantsDominate in ColoradoThe five biggest bank organizations,based on assets in Coloradoon March 31Organization/ AssetsHeadquarters (billions)First Bank System $7.9MinneapolisNorwest 5.4MinneapolisFirst Nationwide 3.4San FranciscoBanc One 2.8Columbus, OhioFirstbank Holding Co. 1.6Lakewood, Colo.

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