A group of San Diego banks has launched an advertising campaign aimed at those who still doubt banks will be ready for the year-2000 date change.

Though most banks have spent considerable time and money telling their customers that they are prepared -- mainly through statement inserts, signs in their lobbies, or messages on Web sites -- 16 San Diego banks are reaching out to the community at large.

They have ponied up $40,000 to spread the word throughout San Diego County. Ads began running in the San Diego Union-Tribune and five other local papers last week and will continue through next month.

The bankers say they launched the campaign because they are concerned about national polls indicating that some consumers still plan to withdraw large amounts of cash before the new year because they fear that banks' computer systems will not recognize the date change.

"We don't want to become complacent," said John G. Rebelo Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Peninsula Bank in San Diego. "We need to reinforce the message."

The California Bankers Association helped create the campaign for their San Diego-area members.

A similar effort is taking place in Virginia, where six banks have funded a cable television ad that encompasses a 14-county market surrounding Richmond. It began last month and will end by Thanksgiving.

"We think this has been the most effective way to reach the masses," said Pat Satterfield, executive director at the Virginia Association of Community Banks, which helped put the ad together.

The San Diego- and Richmond-area campaigns represent a bit of a departure for the banking industry.

For the most part, banks have left Y2K advertising up to state and national trade groups, bank observers say.

Sam Cerminaro, president of Bank Ad Agency in King of Prussia, Pa., said most consumers already assume banks will be ready for the date change, so it is not worth spending advertising dollars to tell them.

"I don't think those kinds of ads are going to attract any customers from outside the bank," he said.

Diane Isman, a spokeswoman for Intrust Bank in Wichita, Kan., said the $2.3 billion-asset company has no plans to run Y2K ads unless public opinion shifts dramatically in the next two months.

"We feel secure," Ms. Isman said. "The banking industry has gotten a lot of positive media about Y2K."

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