Fine print has never been so fine.

Though some accuse banks of hiding snags in the small type at the bottom of their ads, Bank of the West actually plays up its disclosures in a creative way.

Its new ad campaign—which is a bridge to a larger brand makeover yet to come—aims to channel the straight-shooting, hard-working character of people who settled the West.

"We felt that we needed to really encapsulate some of our values and who we are, the first idea being this idea of transparency, and how we are always upfront with our customers," says Chris Matthews, senior vice president of brand management at the San Francisco-based bank, with more than $60 billion in assets.

The print, radio and Web ads are for a free-checking offer, but put a fresh spin on the forgettable product promos that litter financial services marketing.

One ad running in newspapers across most of the bank's 19-state footprint has the headline, "*And Get $100," in huge type.

The copy below—which says, "Here's the nitty-gritty"—explains the offer: $100 to new customers who open a free checking account with a minimum of $100 and set up a recurring payment of at least $250.

Another print ad has the headline: "Free checking so free, it's worth reading the fine print below."

But the bank's personality comes through even more clearly in four 60-second radio spots, all of which use the voice of actor Daniel Stern, who was the narrator on the television series "The Wonder Years."

One spot starts out by saying, "At Bank of the West, we like to be straightforward with our customers and future customers. For example, if you had spinach stuck to your teeth, we'd tell you. Or if your fly was down—well, you get the picture." The narrartor goes on to list the details of the promotion. All of the commercials conclude with, "It's yet another reason to go west—Bank of the West."

Another spot mentions how the bank's lawyers said that if the ad explained the terms and conditions of the $100 offer up front, rather than really fast at the end, "We can use that time for something a little bit more fun." So after running through the terms at a casual pace, the narrator starts the fast-talking: "Some suggestions apply: Please spend the money on something or somebody you love; take your wife out to dinner for no reason at all, and by all means splurge."

The campaign is the work of San Francisco-based ad shop Heat. John Elder, its president and chief executive, keyed in on the straightforward and pioneering spirit of Westerners as a brand attribute to help set the bank apart from what many customers view as the evil epicenter of financial services: Wall Street. In keeping with that personality, the ad's humor is more of a wink than laugh-out-loud.

"People in the West are just a different breed," Elder says. "It's less about this social climbing, Town Cars and corner offices in Manhattan. It's more about the guy in jeans and flip-flops coming into your branch, and his Internet company may have just gone public, so you want to treat him as well as somebody in a three-piece suit."

That's why Stern was a good fit for the radio spots. "We wanted to get a voiceover that felt very familiar, very American, like a regular person, like a friend," Elder says.

Bank of the West is going after 25- to 45-year-olds looking to switch banks, whether from changing jobs, moving, getting married, or just being sick of their current bank. "We're targeting areas where other banks have changed policy or haven't had good customer service," Matthews says.

The campaign, in running from February through April, surpassed goals for account openings by as much as 25 percent in some markets, such as Southern California.

Jeff Stephens, CEO of Creative Brand in Portland, Ore., says the ads are clever. "You've got to give them credit for thinking in a new or different way," he says, even if it isn't the first use of a cute disclaimer in radio spots.

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