Bank Watch

Wells Fargo to start national TV commercials addressing sales scandal

A woman walks past a Wells Fargo bank in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2016.
A woman walks past a Wells Fargo bank in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Wells Fargo’s efforts to repair its brand shift to television Monday, with the launch of a nationwide ad campaign addressing its sales scandal.

TV commercials will begin airing Monday night during prominent programs including ABC’s “World News Tonight,” CBS’ “Evening News” and NBC’s “Nightly News,” the San Francisco-based bank said. The move expands on a campaign that until now has focused on advertisements with American newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

“It reiterates Wells Fargo’s commitment to customers and the steps we are taking to move forward and make things right,” Wells Fargo spokesman Mark Folk told the Observer.

The TV commercials are also expected to air during Sunday morning talk shows on major networks, Folk said.

Folk declined to disclose how much Wells Fargo has spent on such advertising since its brand was tarnished by revelations employees opened millions of accounts customers may not have authorized. Wells Fargo paid $185 million in fines last month to settle those claims without admitting or deny them.

Like the newspaper ads, the TV commercials are expected to describe actions the bank has already taken to improve its practices and compensate affected customers, Folk said. Those steps have included giving customers refunds as well as eliminating product sales goals for retail bankers.

Folk said Wells’ TV campaign will also include commercials on Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision. Those ads will launch Oct. 31, when the bank will also roll out national radio ads for English- and non-English-speaking audiences, he said.

The fallout from the scandal has been felt in Wells’ branches.

According to disclosures the bank made this month, customer visits in September with bankers in branches fell 10 percent, credit card applications fell 20 percent and consumer checking account openings fell 25 percent compared with a year earlier.

But the bank also noted customer traffic to its branches and call centers remained at typical levels for September, and that customers with formal complaints related to sales practices have been less than 1 percent of calls handled by phone bankers.

A study released Monday by management-consulting firm cg42 estimated Wells Fargo could lose $99 billion in deposits and $4 billion in revenues over the next 12 to 18 months as a direct result of the scandal.

A survey the firm conducted this month of 1,000 Wells Fargo primary customers found 30 percent are actively exploring switching banks.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts