Wells Fargo launches ad campaign while facing prospect of losing nearly half of its retail customers

Wells Fargo's fake accounts scandal could spur almost half - 44% - of the bank's existing retail customers to walk out the door, according to a study published today by management consulting firm cg42.

The study found that the unfolding scandal has 14% of Wells Fargo's existing customers planning to leave, with another 30% considering other alternatives, including walking out the door. In a rapid fire attempt to change the narrative, the company also debuted a national ad campaign on Monday to address its scandal in which as many as 2 million deposit and credit accounts were opened without customer authorization.

The commercial, using the brand imagery of the bank's Old West stagecoach, will air on the big three networks' nightly newscasts as well as their Sunday morning talk shows, which draw larger audiences in the final weeks before the presidential election.

The bank's campaign also includes print ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, which initially reported on Wells Fargo's fake accounts scandal in 2013.

Wells Fargo declined to discuss how much it's spending on the campaign, saying that information is "confidential."

Wells is eager to tell everyone that it has offered full refunds to affected customers that it has identified. The bank also is taking steps to find customers that may have been missed in its initial investigation. Losing Wells Fargo's retail customer base would be a phenomenal hit for the company and today underscores the challenges new CEO Tim Sloan faces in righting the bank and its ubiquitous stagecoach.

The San Francisco-based bank also is publicizing in the ad campaign other measures it has taken to address the scandal, including sending confirmation emails with each new account opened and the elimination of product sales goals for retail bank employees on Oct. 1.

"We are also contacting each of our impacted deposit and credit card customers to ensure they still want and need their products," a Wells spokesman said.

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