In response to the latest round of megamerger deals, Southfield, Mich.- based Franklin Bank has launched a series of radio advertisements that take humorous jabs at its larger competitors.

The ads, airing on four Detroit-area radio stations, feature a character who sounds like George C. Scott in "Patton" describing how the region is being "attacked" by big banks from the east, south, and west. His "war strategy" recommends that customers seek shelter from the mergers by switching to Franklin.

Rebecca Christian, a senior vice president at $504 million-asset Franklin, said the ads were created in response to Cleveland-based National City Corp.'s merger with First of America Bank Corp., Kalamazoo, Mich. When Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio, said last month that it would merge with Chicago-based First Chicago NBD Corp., producers changed the script.

The anti-merger campaigns have paid off for Franklin. Since the bank started running the spots in 1991, Franklin has increased its number of checking accounts from about 500 to more than 10,000.

"We hear all the time that our ads are right on target," Ms. Christian said. "Even our competitors think they're funny."

-Laura Pavlenko Lutton


Draped on the facade of Commercial Bank of San Francisco's downtown office building is a giant red banner that reads simply: "We are not moving to North Carolina."

The banner refers, of course, to a certain San Francisco institution's decision to merge with NationsBank Corp. and move its own headquarters to Charlotte, N.C. Within days of the April 13 announcement, $125 million- asset Commercial Bank launched a "Keep Your Money in the City" campaign that aims to pick up Bank of America customers who would prefer to bank with a local institution.

"We're a little bank just trying to make people take notice," said Robert A. Fuller Jr., president and chief executive officer at Commercial Bank.

Aside from the banner, the bank is running radio ads for the first time in its 24-year history, to assure customers that it's not going anywhere. It even sent out a news release with the tongue-in-cheek headline, "Commercial Bank world headquarters to remain in San Francisco."

How many customers open accounts at Commercial Bank as a result of the campaign remains to be seen. But those who do will receive more than just the promise of personal service. They'll also get a $50 gift certificate to a San Francisco restaurant.

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