When it comes to designing advertisements for local newspapers, many cash-strapped community banks typically assign the task to a computer-savvy staff member rather than hire an advertising agency.
But one Pennsylvania agency has created a line of ready-made ads that its president says are far slicker than anything "Gladys in accounting" can churn out.
Bank Ad Agency in King of Prussia markets a line of 90 print ads to community banks along the Eastern Seaboard. The firm plans to roll out a nationwide campaign this fall for these "ReadyAds," into which community banks can insert their logos and interest rates.
"Maybe the bank uses somebody in-house just because she happened to know how to use a PC to design an ad," said the agency president, Samuel Cerminaro Jr. "This gives them a better alternative."
The ads, which start at $99 for text only and $249 for those with pictures, can save banks as much as $1,000 off the price of customized ads of similar quality, bankers said.
Berlin City Bank of Berlin, N.H., has run one of the ads for four weeks in a local newspaper to promote its certificates of deposit.
"We've had decent results," said John Stratton, a senior vice president at the $276 million-asset bank. "We were able to attract a little bit of new money and retain a lot of money that had been with us."
Still, the ads have their weaknesses.
"They're not great if you want to develop a campaign to enhance your image," Mr. Stratton said.
Mr. Cerminaro said he realizes that ReadyAds cannot meet all of banks' advertising needs. The ads complement other services his firm offers, he said, and he hopes ReadyAd customers will turn to the agency when they require bank-specific advertisements.
He and his partner, Wendy Wolfinger, started Bank Ad Agency in 1993 as a subsidiary of the 12-year-old Wolfinger Cerminaro Communications. They started marketing ReadyAds to community banks after they realized demand existed for an inexpensive advertising alternative.
"Since we've been doing this so long, we know that one of the things community banks often can't afford is terrific creative advertising to get their message out there," Mr. Cerminaro said. "With this product, the costs aren't great, but they can get a good response."
ReadyAds help stretch community banks' budgets, said Keith Van Saders, chief financial officer of $51 million-asset Community State Bank of Teaneck, N.J. When his bank opened its doors in 1997 in the highly competitive New York suburbs, it searched for ways to save money while spreading its name.
"It's cheaper to use one of these ads, and it's quicker," Mr. Van Saders said. "The ReadyAd took one day to adapt to what we wanted. To create a new ad, it can take a week or more."