Wells Fargo & Co. has kicked off an advertising campaign aimed at improving its image in markets it entered by acquiring First Interstate Bancorp.

The bank hired the DDB Needham agency of Los Angeles to produce two television commercials. One premiered Feb. 6 during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. The other will begin appearing in early March.

The San Francisco-based bank is intent on winning back customers who were turned off by operational snafus and other problems relating to the 1996 First Interstate deal.

Wells Fargo "has to do something above the ordinary to reestablish their position in some markets," said R. Jay Tejera, an analyst with Dain Rauscher of Minneapolis.

Wells declined to reveal the cost of the ad campaign, but observers estimated that production and airtime for the first 432 showings cost $30 million to $50 million.

The first commercial, which has been broadcast in 12 markets in California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, intersperses a rushing stagecoach with children running out of a schoolhouse, a young girl contemplating a silver pocket watch, and other vignettes. Says a female voice-over: "At Wells Fargo, we think the person who said 'Time is money' didn't place a high enough value on time. ... Wells Fargo. Fast then. Fast now."

One critic said the spot does not take enough advantage of the strong imagery evoked by the Wells Fargo name.

"This commercial tastes like Wells is trying to be like an East Coast bank-it's glitzy and boring and isn't tied as closely to the core values of the brand as it should be," said Peter J. Harleman, area managing director of Landor Associates, a San Francisco-based identity consulting firm.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.