Banks and credit unions in Utah, aiming to make the most of customer dislocation in a wave of merger activity there, have stepped up a yearlong advertising war employing sarcasm, xenophobia, scare tactics, humor, and gentle reassurance - sometimes all at once.

The ads have intensified in recent weeks because next month the branches of Salt Lake City's First Security Corp. will be taking the brand of Wells Fargo Corp., the San Francisco banking company that bought it in October.

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