This month CoreStates Financial Corp. began running commercials on local New York television stations as part of a new retail strategy, according to spokeswoman Julie Keiffer.

The advertisements-filled with homey images-are meant for New Jersey residents, she said.

The $44 billion-asset bank operates 155 branches in New Jersey, mostly in the densely populated northern counties near New York.

Retail banking consultants said such "concept" advertising campaigns are popular techniques for companies planning to launch product promotions.

"They need to increase awareness before they do a direct mail campaign," said Les Dinkin, a consultant at NBW Consulting Group in Westport, Conn.

But consultants also speculated that the bank could be trying to boost its image in the minds of Wall Street investors. CoreStates has been under fire of late, analysts said.

"Their growth has been disappointing," said George Bicher, an analyst at BT Alex. Brown. "And there is no obvious initiative for creating growth in the near term."

Earlier this month CoreStates confirmed that its board rejected an unsolicited takeover bid from Mellon Bank Corp. in Pittsburgh.

Consultants said the image campaign could be a sign that CoreStates intends to assert its independence.

"It's definitely a corporate image campaign," said James Cerutti, a brand image consultant at Deifenbach Elkins in San Francisco. "They have to build their brand and appeal to consumers in order to drive growth."

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