Big banks are beginning to set aside small budgets for advertising on the World Wide Web.

By advertising on Web sites other than their own, marketing experts say, the banks could attract attention to their electronic services while building their brand identities.

Web advertising is cheaper than ads in traditional electronic and print media.

Chase Manhattan Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. spent the most on Web advertisements during the first seven months of 1997, according to data compiled by Jupiter Communications, a New York research firm. Chase spent $970,900; Wells, $275,000.

Though those are just drops in the banks' media buckets, consultants said they indicate a change in bank marketers' thinking.

"They are starting to deal in markets where they might not have had a branch presence before," said George Albright, chairman of Speer & Associates, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. "They are really feeling the need to develop a national brand presence."

More than 90% of Web advertising by banks last year took the form of "banners," the rectangular spaces that run along the top or side of a page of Web content, according to Jupiter Communications.

Banks advertised almost entirely on publishing Web sites like those of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Business Week, said Jupiter on-line advertising analyst Marc Johnson.

Advertising on the Web has come a long way since banks began posting their own Web sites about three years ago.

"Banks are realizing that it's the relationship they want to go after," Mr. Johnson said. "They have learned that it doesn't make sense for the customer to have to do all the work."

But the actual dollar amounts spent on Web advertising are still dwarfed by more traditional ways to get the messages out.

Chase spent $38.2 million on television, radio, and print in the first seven months of 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting in New York. Web advertising was less than 3% of that total.

Wells spent $27.1 million for the first seven months, Competitive Media said, with the Web portion 1%.

BankAmerica Corp., another sprawling retail bank that may have national aspirations, spent the most last year on overall advertising, with a budget of $48.9 million, according to Competitive Media. But its Web spending- $92,600-was less than 1% of that.

"Banks are still studying what they are doing now and what they need to do," Mr. Johnson said.

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