company is flaunting its new girth in a series of television, radio, and newspaper advertisements around the Midwest. Mercantile grew from $19 billion of assets at yearend to $30 billion with the recent acquisitions of St. Louis rivals Mark Twain Bancshares and Roosevelt Financial Group. It holds the biggest share of deposits in St. Louis and Missouri. And to show how proud it is of its new bulk, Mercantile is advertising its size, strength, and St. Louis base in ads that began this week in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois. The campaign also marks the first major advertising promotion for Mercantile in several years. One of the print ads reads: "Mercantile has grown to $30 billion in assets. A figure which, on the surface, may seem more relevant to bankers than customers. But not if you're one of the five million customers in partnership with Mercantile every day." Elsewhere in the ad, Mercantile states: "When you consider our century- long relationship with St. Louis, you know Mercantile is here for the long run." The ads stress the company's newfound position as the largest bank in the state. In a radio spot, the bank asks: "Wouldn't you want the resources of the most powerful St. Louis-based bank behind you?" The reference is intended to distinguish itself from Charlotte, N.C.- based NationsBank Corp., which for the first half of this year was the biggest bank in Missouri as a result of the acquisition of Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis in January. Mercantile plans separate ads later in its other two markets, Iowa and Arkansas. Mercantile's ads carry its new slogan - "The power of partnership" - and also stress the company's personal relationships with its customers. While stressing size and personal approach may seem contradictory, observers say Mercantile simply wants to distinguish itself from both its smaller competitors and NationsBank. "I think what they're trying to say is we're the biggest bank in Missouri, but we still do business on a personal basis," said James Weber, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. Mr. Weber, who could not recall the last time Mercantile launched a big ad campaign, said the company appears to be stressing its local ties, while promoting its brand. Like some of its major competitors, most notably NationsBank, Mercantile is trying to create name recognition, he said. "Branding and marketing has become more important for the industry," said Mr. Weber. "Banks have not traditionally been at the forefront of branding strategies." Michael Ancell, an analyst with Edward Jones in St. Louis, said he was surprised Mercantile would make a comment in its ads about being "here for the long run" because the company is considered an attractive takeover candidate.
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