Free Goes Far

July 24th, 2013

How the new First National Bank campaign produced big results.

When America began its determined crawl out of the recession that began in 2008, the banking industry had been dealt a black eye. Many consumers blamed large financial institutions for the economic upheaval that cost many Americans their homes and livelihoods. During this time, Bozell helped First National Bank tell its 150-year story of financial stability and community involvement.

The most recent First National Bank campaign struck a chord in Omaha and inspired an operational-philosophy initiative within the bank, reiterating     its commitment to honest communication and long-lasting relationships. As part of this commitment, First National Bank developed a brand new free checking product that would reflect the dedication to “doing what’s right.”

Bozell was tasked with bringing awareness of this free checking account to consumers in all of First National Bank’s markets. The first step, of course, was to learn as much as we could about the product. We sat down with the people from First National Bank who developed the free checking account, and, over the course of the meeting, we were blown away.

It turns out that regulators allow banks to call a checking account “free” even if it charges fees. That’s not cool, and that’s not how First National Bank rolls. The new First National Checking account was without almost any of the fees and requirements most banks saddle their “free checking” with. In fact, the only charge First National Bank would keep was an overdraft fee, and they’d even extend one free “forgiveness” every year. This account was truly unlike any other checking product available.

Now we just had to tell consumers that story.

The First National Checking campaign started like so many of our ideas do – in a room full of as many smart people as we could find. These brainstorming sessions yield a tremendous number of ideas, from simple to crazy to just crazy enough to work. At the end of the process, however, one idea seemed to stand out.Putting the “R” back in “free.”

When you sign up for free checking at other banks, what you’re really getting is “fee checking”. They’d decided that “fee” was better than “free,” especially when it came to their bottom lines. Not First National Bank.

Our creative team worked with First National Bank and MAKE Visual to develop an “R” character that would remind everyone “fee” and “free” aren’t the same. We wanted to show the audience what a difference an “R” makes.

We implemented the “R” checking campaign across an integrated media campaign, including outdoor, television and digital executions, including pre-roll videos. The minimal design allowed the character to pop and draw attention not only to the First National Checking account, but also highlight the difference between competing accounts. The campaign itself left consumers with one question: “Am I truly free of fees at my bank?” The answer: if you have First National Checking, you certainly “R.”

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