OUT-OF-TOWN AND CLOSE-TO-HOME

In my last post, I bemoaned the out-of-town printer that misspelled “Fishers” as “Fishus” on a pizza ad. Some would suggest that mistakes like that are proof that out-of-town service providers just can’t be as accurate as local folks. But an ad I created for a Louisiana bank back in my ad agency days proves that an out-of-towner who takes a little extra time and makes some extra effort can create a convincing local message. 

The bank was opening a branch in Lafayette, a city in which they had never done business. Management didn’t want to be seen as the giant outsider coming to town, even though that’s exactly what they were.

Louisiana tends to be a parochial state, in which each region sees itself as remarkably distinct from the others. (Heck, they even call their counties “parishes,” and you can’t get much more parochial than that!) For that reason, we used radio voice talents from Chicago, because they had neutral accents. Had we used someone from Bossier City in a radio commercial that aired in Lake Charles, we would have offended local sensibilities.

When I received the assignment, I saw that the branch was being built at the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Kalliste Saloom Road. My first reaction was that the crossing would sound terrible in ad copy. But then my curiosity piped up. I picked up the phone (this is before anyone knew about that Internet thing), and called the Lafayette Public Library. When I reached the reference desk, I asked what a Kalliste Saloom was. The librarian laughed and told me that he was a much-loved merchant from the city’s early history. The Ambassador was also a favorite son. She faxed biographical information on both.

So I wrote a series of teaser ads promising that where two of Lafayette’s most important names met, a third would soon appear. The payoff ad explained that Louisiana’s largest financial institution had chosen to locate its Lafayette branch at the junction of streets named for two of the city’s beloved natives, and talked a little bit about both of them. The reaction was stunning. The bank was instantly seen as respectful to a proud community’s history, and the new branch was a hit. The local newspaper’s publisher called my boss and said he was astounded that someone in Indianapolis could capture his hometown’s spirit so accurately and effectively. And yes, I spelled their names correctly.

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