ING Markets Virtual Bank in Canada

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TORONTO - Online bank ING Direct will drop "several hundred thousand" addressed mailings at households across Canada as part of a spring ad blitz.

The mailings, which are being supported by ads in newspapers and out-of-home locations, encourage consumers to "Be Your Own Banker."

Stacey Grant, senior vice president of marketing with ING Direct, said the advertising builds on the themes the bank has been hammering away at since its launch in 1996: virtual banking offers the advantages of longer hours, no lines and higher returns.

"We believe that our message is getting out there," said Grant.

ING Direct is a unit of Dutch banking concern ING Group, which chose Canada as the site of its first virtual banking effort. It's now in the process of expanding the concept into other markets.

Grant said ING Direct's initial advertising was heavily weighted on the branding side, because it was an unknown service that needed to build consumer awareness. Now that most people know about it - or at least are familiar with the name - the focus is shifting increasingly to direct marketing.

The banking services ING Direct offers are: investment savings accounts (with an interest rate of 4.5 percent), US dollar savings accounts, loans and mutual funds.

ING Direct works with two Toronto agencies to develop its advertising. Response Innovations handles direct marketing, while Garneau Würstlin Philp Brand Engineering manages traditional brand advertising.

The Be Your Own Banker campaign features playful cut-outs of the different components of a do-it-yourself banking kit. These include the bank itself as well as a money bag, wingback chair, bowler hat, financial chart and rubber stamp.

Additionally, a newspaper FSI, which went out earlier this month, takes a humorous slant in explaining to consumers how they can become their own bankers.

For example, Step 3, featuring the bank rubber stamp, says, "Bankers never charge themselves fees or service charges. So don't."

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