Chase Manhattan Corp. is shining an advertising spotlight on its growing insurance operation for the first time.
The advertisements, which began appearing Monday in New York newspapers and on local television and will run through November, are built around the theme of a "wake-up call" to potential insurance buyers.
The ads emphasize Chase's commitment to the insurance business, rather than touting specific policies.
"Our goal now is building awareness," said Dennis R. Kosovac, chief executive officer of Chase Insurance Agency. "Fewer than one in five bank customers knows that we offer insurance."
The ad campaign is highly unusual for a bank insurance operation. Though banks have been selling noncredit insurance for several years, almost all have been content to market their offerings through direct mail and statement stuffers.
Observers say banks, which have been quietly pushing into the insurance business since the early 1990s, are now entering a new, more public phase of marketing the services. With developed insurance programs finally in place, these institutions finally have something worth promoting to a more general audience.
"By coming out with an ad campaign, Chase is sending a signal to the insurance companies and agents and consumers that they are in the business and they're not going away," said Valerie Jordan, president of Jordan & Jordan, a bank insurance consulting firm in Belchertown, Mass. She predicted that others will follow suit.
Banks clearly do have a long way to go with their insurance programs. Chase's program, considered one of the most advanced in the industry, brings in about $100 million in revenues for the bank, which has total annual revenues of about $19 billion. About 5% of customers have bought policies through the bank, Mr. Kosovac said.
The ad campaign is setting out to change that. Mr. Kosovac said the aim is to boost sales 25% to 30%.
In a television spot created by the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, a piano is heard in the background as an announcer states, "You've got a wake-up call"-the birth of a baby girl to a young couple.
"You've got to wonder how they'd manage without you," says the announcer, appealing to viewers who head households. "With the right insurance choices to get you started, you've got advice you can trust-right there in your branch."
Chase officials would not disclose the cost of the advertising campaign.
Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant based in Princeton, N.J., said Chase has an advantage over other large banks in that its customer base is largely concentrated geographically. Still, banks have been slow to advertise largely because it has not proved effective, he said.
Last year bank investment programs spent just 2.2% of revenues on advertising and marketing, a fraction of the average marketing campaign at an American company, he said.
Unlike insurance companies or mutual fund companies, banks typically sell to existing customers who can be reached more effectively through other marketing means such as mailings. "I'm a little skeptical of the efficacy of a general advertising campaign given their market focus," Mr. Kehrer added.
Chase refrained from major advertising of its insurance program until it had a broad product line and more salespeople.
The bank has about 1,300 employees licensed to sell insurance, Mr. Kosovac said. By next year, he said, that force will grow to 2,000. The bank also has a broad sales network encompassing telemarketers, branch employees, and professional life agents.
Chase hopes its advertising campaign will build upon customer trust and be a reminder about insurance needs. Unlike some insurance industry advertisements, Chase does not want to frighten customers about the life events that necessitate an insurance purchase.
"That is absolutely what we don't want to do," said Kathryn Frohling- Railey, a Chase vice president in its national consumer services group.
Ms. Frohling-Railey said the messages will be reinforced at branches. Signs and brochures will feature the same actors seen in the print and television ads. After this campaign, product-specific advertisements will be selectively run, she said.
Next year insurance and other products will be touched upon in a general corporate advertising campaign, Chase officials said.