Banks elbowing each other for space in the crowded capital markets have launched a heated battle in the financial pages as well.
Big banks have unleashed a flurry of advertisements pitching corporate clients on the advantages of getting all their financing needs met under one roof. Among them: NationsBank Corp., Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Chase Manhattan Corp.
The ads have appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Forbes, among other publications. By and large, they feature groupings of "tombstones" - announcements of securities and loans the banks have led.
Advertising experts say the campaigns are spreading like wildfire. "Bank advertising is more aggressive than it has ever been," said Jim Sansavaro, managing director of Citigate Albert Frank, a New York ad agency.
Indeed, by June 30, banks had spent $23 million on tombstone advertisements - close to the $28 million they spent in all of last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting and Publishers Bureau.
The pervasive slogan of "one-stop shopping" is the common thread in the latest rash of ads.
A NationsBank ad, for instance, shows 52 tombstones - which advertising wags dub "a graveyard" - under the headline, "Why NationsBank is a Recognized Leader for One-Stop Leveraged Finance."
The ad, which appeared in the Oct. 22 Wall Street Journal, notes that the bank handled $45 billion in leveraged finance transactions in the first nine months of this year, thanks to a "one-stop approach" that includes loan syndications, bridge loans, securities, liability management, advisory services, and direct equity investment.
Grant O'Neal, brand director at Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank, said that tombstone advertising is a particularly effective way of telling a complex story in a small space.
"It is a concise and quick method of expressing a wide variety of capabilities, and from that standpoint it's effective," he said.
Chase Manhattan, in an Oct. 23 Journal ad, took a more focused approach, highlighting its "Oil and Gas Capital Markets Expertise." The ad displayed 12 tombstones, and noted that the bank has a "team of over 100 professionals serving the oil and gas industry."
The ad also struck the one-stop shopping theme, touting Chase as "the best source for all your capital needs."
Still, banks face an uphill climb in persuading the targets of the ads - corporate treasurers - that one-stop shopping is the way to go.
"We all read a lot of ads, and we all have a certain skepticism about them. I need to see the strategy happen with me," said Peter Chehayl, vice president and treasurer of 360 Communications, a spinoff from Sprint Corp.