A subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc. has signed up as the first bank participant in an innovative television marketing program that allows borrowers to earn cash rebates.
SunTrust Bank Central Florida plans to market consumer and home equity loans on Rebate TV, a 30-minute program that airs every day on central Florida's Channel 56.
SunTrust will provide customers a $50 rebate on loans of $5,000 or more and will pay closing costs on home equity loans of between $10,000 and $50,000.
Viewers who watch the television program and subsequently visit their local SunTrust branch to purchase the products can get their rebates by dialing an "800" number at Rebate TV. Rebate checks are mailed out at the end of each month.
"Our expectations are wide open, in the sense that it truly is a test," said John McGuire, executive vice president for marketing at the Orlando- based bank. "We don't know what to expect, and that's why we're giving it a shot."
Mr. McGuire and Rebate TV officials said they were not aware of any similar program.
Bank marketing consultants said the Rebate TV approach could hold special appeal for retail customers.
"Consumers, unlike businesses, are often not frequent borrowers," said Joe Hagan, president of 20/20 Financial Research Corp. in Nashville. "They don't have long-time credit relationships with a bank and are much more sensitive to convenience and value."
Rebate TV was launched in central Florida by Orlando-based Interactive Technologies Corp. in April. Current clients include SunTrust, the Goodings supermarket chain, and Allied Tires.
Bob Poe, Interactive's chief operating officer, said his company plans to expand Rebate TV into the nation's top 25 television markets over the next 36 months. He said SunTrust was the only bank client signed so far.
"SunTrust was the first one to pursue this thing aggressively," Mr. Poe said.
Mr. McGuire said SunTrust viewed Rebate TV as a fairly low-cost way to garner additional customers. He pointed out that the $50 rebate on consumer loans is paid only after the loan document is signed, and that it has become common for home equity lenders to cover closing costs.