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Bank of America's Good Works, on Your TV Screen

• "We're trying to show...we enable opportunities, and we always have"

Bank of America (BAC) has emerged from the financial crisis with its public image a bit frayed. So it is paying the History Channel to help repair the damage. Viewers of the network's America, the Story of Us, airing through May 31, will be treated to twice-weekly mini-documentaries showcasing Bank of America's contributions to society through the ages.

Bank of America's two-minute spots trumpet the bank's influence during the era spotlighted in each episode. A segment about the Revolutionary War, for instance, features a spot about the Massachusetts Bank (later acquired by BofA) providing capital to early Americans. The mini-doc accompanying an episode about the Great Depression details how BofA helped finance construction of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Other spots feature its role in funding the Erie Canal and Cecil B. De Mille movies. Who knew?

After a minute of historical footage, each BofA vignette flashes to the present to show how the bank is serving Americans today. "We understand consumers are skeptical and distrustful of banks," says Meredith Verdone, Bank of America's senior vice-president of advertising. "We're trying to show that whether it's capital or lending, we enable opportunities, and we always have."

The $4 million deal is the biggest series sponsorship this year for History, part of the A&E joint venture among Hearst, Disney (DIS), and NBC Universal.

BofA staff historians developed the mini-docs. That said, don't look for shots of Abe Lincoln waving his Bank of America ATM card. Nancy Dubuc, president of the History Channel, says that the cable network's historians held the two-minute histories to the "highest standard of accuracy."

The bottom line: Marketers increasingly are looking for ways to integrate their message more closely into the story lines of shows on which they advertise.

Helm is marketing editor for BusinessWeek in New York.

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