The economic crisis has had a
marked effect on bank advertising strategies, with many major
institutions cutting back on spending, in particular on credit
card, loan and investment products. One of the more innovative
marketing campaigns to appear in the past six months has been from
Italy’s second-largest banking group, Intesa Sanpaolo. Its latest
marketing initiative – which is consuming the majority of its ad
budget for the first half – is based around three sponsored short
films. Douglas Blakey reports

Called Per Fiducia (in English, Have
Faith), they are designed to demonstrate confidence in the future
and are being promoted by the bank in an effort to cheer up
recession-hit Italy. They are available at the microsite as well as via the bank’s website.

These are not just any short films: the
project has engaged the services of three of the Italian movie
industry’s leading directors to craft messages “intended to recount
the positive and vital forces that animate our country,” says the

Filmmakers Ermanno Olmi (a past winner of the
Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), Oscar-award winning
Gabriele Salvatores, and Paolo Sorrentino (awarded the Prix du Jury
at Cannes) are the directors. Intesa Sanpaolo executives have
argued that engaging such celebrated directors in itself is
designed to convey a feeling of confidence.

By the end of April, more than 480,000 viewers
had watched the films on the site, resulting in the bank
considering support for further films. The films also played in
full or in trailer version in Italian cinemas during April and May,
as well as on the Per Fuducia website.

Intesa Sanpaolo contends that the current
economic climate is not the time to run a traditional ad

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Each of the films, quite deliberately, makes
no mention of their banking sponsor and all are of a high
production standard.

The three films are: The Award
(Ermanno Olmi), a feel good film celebrating the enterprise of two
young students; Stella (Gabriele Salvatores), about second
chances; and The Game is Slow (Paolo Sorrentino), a film
without dialogue in black and white about life as a game of

Mixed reaction from Italian

While reaction from Italian film fan
bloggers has been mixed, the vast majority of comments have
acknowledged the films are well made. The sheer volume of
discussion generated by Per Fiducia, within two weeks of the films
launching, has cheered the bank.

Support for the arts, traditionally a major
part of Intesa Sanpaolo’s marketing mix, has so far not been
affected by the souring economic climate, with the group’s
sponsorship spend rising 23 percent during the year to €59

It also spent €226 million ($301 million) on
advertising in 2008, up from €211 million in 2007.

Prominent among the bank’s cultural portfolio
is its ongoing support for Milan’s world-famous opera house, La
Scala, including sponsorship of the 2008-2009 opera and ballet
season. Benefits of the deal to the bank’s customers include a
number of tickets for each performance.

The bank’s artistic heritage is also evidenced
by a celebrated art collection, which it makes available to the
general public.