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Even WaMu, Citi/Wachovia Are Firing Up Ads to Reassure Customers

The sagging print news media industry is getting a bump from another badly troubled sector -- financial services.

This morning the WSJ's front section had five full- or quarter-page advertisements trying to reassure investors that all is well. Prudential touted its 133 years of managing risk. Fidelity hawked the "right choices" for fixed income. Charles Schwab front-and-centered its "independent" financial advisers while Dow Jones took out a full page house ad telling us all how lucky we are to have them around.

The NYT's advertising watcher Stuart Elliott outlined the various tactics financial houses are using. Bank of America, for instance, is promoting particular products such as risk-free and high yield CDs. Charles Schwab comes head on telling you that you do have reason to be worried -- but that they can help.

Failed savings and loan Washington Mututal uses humor to skate past the fact that they are being sold to JP Morgan Chase. WaMu, which saw scared customers withdraw $17 billion in deposits in a 10 day period last month, has run ads boasting "We Love Chase And not just because they have a trillion dollars."

Reassuring ads aren't limited to national markets, either. In Kansas City, UMB bank took out full page ads in the Kansas City Star to let customers know that it chose not to get involved in the subprime crisis and that it has a strong balance sheet. In Cleveland, National City Bank, whose stock has dipped form about $26 a year ago to little more than $2 now, is likewise using ads to reassure customers.

To be sure, there have been misfires. Citigroup, for instance, was running full-page newspaper ads across the country touting its planned acqusition of Wachovia last week when Wells Fargo slipped in with a better offer. Citi quickly pulled the ads. There may be a resolution of who gets Wachovia or what part of it tomorrow.

While banks may be smart to guide customers to good deals that can help weather the storm, there's one fact that they can't escape. As Gary M. Stibel, chief executive at the New England Consulting Group tells the Times, when the CEO of a financial company tells you everything's okay, you know it's not okay.

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