PC Financial brings out the heavy artillery

President's Choice Financial doesn't want to be like any of Canada's big five banks when it grows up. It wants to be better....

President’s Choice Financial doesn’t want to be like any of Canada’s big five banks when it grows up. It wants to be better.

The virtual bank is approaching its third birthday Feb. 14 and, like the precocious child that it is, is stepping up its attacks on its bricks-and-mortar competitors with more unconventional offers of no-fee banking and credit card products, all with free grocery bonuses.

To lead the assault, PC Financial has hired some heavy artillery – creative powerhouse Palmer Jarvis DDB has been brought in to handle mass media advertising, while Tattoo Direct + Digital will spearhead the crucial direct response and electronic business. It’s the first agency of record assignment for Tattoo since the Toronto-based shop opened last fall. Lowe RMP Direct had the business since the 1998 launch.

Katherine Dimopoulos, vice-president of marketing for PC Financial, says it was time to draw upon the full spectrum of marketing and media options available, given the company’s growth and the competitive nature of the financial marketplace.

‘By having a mass agency at the table, we’re looking to their strategic skills as well as their recommendations. And the talent and experience that Tattoo and PJ bring, their methodologies and their passion, partners up very nicely with the way we feel here.’

While the players may have changed, Dimopoulos says the message will be the same as it has been from the beginning – no-fee banking.

The irreverent tone that PC Financial has adopted – an early FSI showed a lemon (labelled ‘you’) being reamed on a lemon squeezer (labelled ‘your bank’) – will continue, says Dimopoulos, and may even be stepped up a notch.

Direct response – everything from statements and newsletters to call centres, banking machines and the Internet – will also remain at the core of the PC Financial program, she says, adding that it’s the best way to build a long-term relationship.

Cheryl Young, president of Tattoo, says her agency intends to bring PC Financial valued-added, innovative ideas that will take the no-fee message to a broader audience using a broad range of tactics, including e-mail marketing.

One of three principals of a company that includes direct response pioneer Mona Goldstein and creative guru Fransi Weinstein, Young spent 20 years on the client side with Amex Bank of Canada, Scudder Investments and the Bank of Montreal.

And that, she says, gives her a considerable amount of insight into what not to do.

‘With PC Financial, the position we take when we look at a piece of creative is, ‘Could that be sent by a regular bank?’ If it can, it’s not appropriate and doesn’t fit the PC Financial brand character.

‘The brand character is a bit irreverent, a little more fun, independent and innovative.’

While some pundits wondered in 1998 whether Canadians would be willing to trust their money to a bank that carries the same brand name as some of their favourite grocery products, Dimopoulos says nearly 500,000 have.

‘We’ve saved them over $26 million in banking fees and earned them over $12 million in free groceries. Our loyalty index for fiscal 2000 is at 80%. That is something to be proud of, not only in the banking industry but all service-type industries.’

President’s Choice Financial, a co-venture between Loblaw Cos. and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, offers no-fee daily banking and savings accounts, an ‘unbeatable, eatable mortgage’ that combines low rates and free groceries, and a variety of loans, a variety of GICs and RRSPs as well as a new, no-fee MasterCard.