Ally’s New Campaign Replaces Ads That Showed Bankers as Cheaters

Ally Financial Inc., the auto and home lender rescued by more than $17 billion of bailout funds, begins a new advertising campaign today to replace commercials that portrayed competing bankers as deceptive.

The campaign for Ally Bank, the company’s Internet arm, will be shown on television, in print and online and highlight accounts that carry no fees and high interest rates, according to a Sept. 17 statement. The Detroit-based company, formerly known as GMAC Inc., flooded the airwaves with its previous campaign, which helped attract more than $9 billion of deposits in the four quarters that ended in June.

“They have built up some sort of brand awareness with consumers and so now they can change their strategy a little bit,” said Brad Adgate, director of research at New York-based advertising firm Horizon Media Inc. “They likely just want to emphasize a different selling point.”

Ally Chief Executive Officer Michael Carpenter has built deposits with marketing that pledged straightforward products and above-average yields while tweaking competitors for mistreating customers. Those ads drew fire from regulators and trade groups such as the American Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America, whose members are vying for more of the nation’s $9 trillion in deposits.

The original campaign was started in May 2009 to introduce Ally, the name adopted after the GMAC Bank brand became tainted by GMAC’s near-collapse in 2008. The ads, created by BBH New York, featured a tall male banker who makes various offers of toys or treats to small children and then changes what they actually get. Ally promised to deal honestly.

Higher Rates

The new ads feature a job candidate who includes his Ally account among his personal traits, and has to repeat his love for the bank’s savings product three times after the interviewer misunderstands. The interviewer repeats what he thinks he hears, each version rhyming with “Raise Your Rate” CD, the Ally certificate of deposit that allows customer a one-time chance to raise the return. The commercial ends: “Ally. Do you love your bank?”

Ally has customer satisfaction rates above 90 percent, according to the statement.

“Our approach -- to be straightforward -- has clearly resonated,” said Sanjay Gupta, Ally’s chief marketing officer, in last week’s statement. Gupta, the architect of the ads, was awarded about $4 million in compensation last year, according to company filings.

Strategy Shift

Ally spent $25.8 million on advertising in the first half of this year, on top of more than $95 million in 2009, according to Nielsen Co., the media-research company.

The change in approach may be the result of criticism Ally received on the earlier ads and shows the company may be graduating to a new phase of business strategy, said Bert Ely, a banking consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia.

“They certainly made a splash, but now it’s time to move on,” Ely said in an interview. “The gimmick rubs off after a while. And the really successful banks have found they have to compete more on service and move away from doing it just on price.”

Horizon Media’s Adgate said the more positive tone may be in anticipation of this fall’s political ads, which often have a negative tone. Ally may be looking to distance itself from any consumer backlash as they grow tired of attack campaigns, he said.

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