Spanish Title Avances Drives Bank Prospecting

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Citibank and Bank of America are deploying a customized Spanish-language personal finance magazine to prospect and cross-sell to Hispanics in their market regions. Bank of America plans to target African-Americans with a similar vehicle.

Citibank, New York, is distributing Avances, a quarterly produced by McMurry Publishing, Phoenix, to 265,000 Hispanic households while Bank of America, San Francisco, mailed its first 50,000 issues last month. It will debut the personal finance quarterly Clout with a mailing to 30,000 African-American households this fall.

Avances is thought to be the only personal finance magazine written exclusively in Spanish.

"We've looked and not found any competition,'' said Jake Poiner, publisher for McMurry banking magazines. "There are banks that produce brochures in Spanish. Avances is written in Spanish, not translated into Spanish. Written materials are handled differently when translated. Idioms often don't work, and you don't want to insult them."

Citibank debuted Avances last year with an initial mailing to 63,500 Hispanic households located within 10 miles of its branch offices in Florida. Starting last month, it is mailed to customers and prospects in its primary retail areas of New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given customer profile criteria by Citibank, McMurry rented lists of respondents to Spanish offers from Database Management, New York, and cross-selected them by address to reach the target audience. Avances will continue to be mailed to the same audience as an acquisition tool and value-added service.

Through a sponsorship agreement with McMurry, the banks buy bulk subscriptions to the magazines for distribution. They are the sole advertisers and can customize all content except the cover story. Articles discuss typical financial decisions -- such as saving for education, refinancing a mortgage or leasing a car and in the case of Citibank, include a call-to-action box with a toll-free number for more information on products the bank offers.

"It's a subtle way to deliver a sales message,'' said Joe Curcio, vice president of Citibank's national Hispanic segment. "The first one in Florida exceeded our expectations.''

Curcio described the magazine as camouflaged direct mail that requires follow up. That role is handled by the sales staff of local branches who call Avances recipients in their area to ask if they still would like to receive it and to invite them into the branch. Feedback has been positive. In Florida, the mailing has resulted in more than 1,500 new accounts.

Citibank also has tied offers to the cover personality of each issue, a prominent member of the Hispanic community. Univision talk-show host Cristina Saralegui adorns the cover of the June issue. By opening a $1,000 certificate of deposit, customers receive an autographed Spanish or English copy of her book, "Confessions of a Blonde." Opening a similar account earned customers a copy of the "Selena" video, which starred previous cover subject Jennifer Lopez.

McMurry, which also syndicates the magazine Business Edge for small business customers, approached Citibank with the idea of a personal finance publication targeted to the underserved Hispanic audience. The response to its in-magazine survey indicates that the concept is being accepted.

"Hispanics don't get as much information in this way," Poiner said. "When they do get something, it gets read, looked at and passed along."

In an unrelated announcement, McMurry recently purchased the assets of SmartHealth, a custom publisher of syndicated health newsletters for hospitals and HMOs, for an undisclosed amount.

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