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ING Markets Consolidated Companies

ING Americas of Atlanta began a major U.S. marketing campaign last week. The campaign, which will run through December, includes print and broadcast ads and will cost more than $20 million. It is the company's first effort to consolidate into a single brand the two companies that were acquired last year by ING Americas' parent company, ING Groep of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, according to the company.

Last year, ING acquired Aetna Financial Services, of Hartford, Conn., and Reliastar Financial, of Minneapolis. Those acquisitions established ING among the top 10 financial services firms in the U.S. in assets under management, said Dana Ripley, a company spokesperson.

While ING Groep's banking unit, which provides high-interest savings accounts via the Web, has run television spots in the past, and ING Americas has long run sporadic print ads, the new ING Americas campaign is the unit's most expensive and concentrated ever in the U.S., Ripley said.

"In terms of having a strong presence in the financial services arena, that has been established," he said. "Now it's time to tell our story and connect with consumers."

Although the mergers occurred last year, ING Americas, which had $163 billion in assets under management as of March 31, waited until now to start the campaign because it was still working on making smooth transitions of the newly merged companies, Ripley said.

The campaign began on all major networks and cable outlets during prime time programming and print ads appeared last week in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, said Ripley. Jordan McGrath Case & Partners of New York, created the advertisements. The firm could not be reached to comment. This is the first time ING Americas has used the advertising agency, said Ripley. Past ads have been more conventional, he said.

The ads play on the company's oft-mispronounced name. (It's "I-N-G", not "ing"), Ripley said. For example, a print ad includes a photograph of a pickup truck passing an ING billboard. The truck's cab obscures the sign, making readers think they are looking at the tail end of the gerund form of a verb, such as the "ing" in "marketing" or "investing." Another photo in the same ad shows the whole billboard, and just the company's logo and name, ING.

A television spot features a man in his mid-30's walking his dog in the park. They pass an outdoor advertisement on the backrest of a park bench with the ING logo and the company's name. Assuming he can not see the whole name because people are sitting on the bench, the man asks an elderly woman, "What does that sign say?" She responds, "I-N-G!"

The campaign's tagline is, "ING, it's not an ending. It's a beginning."

ING's campaign neither demonstrates to customers the benefit of using a company's services or establishes a specific kind of customer relationship as other financial industry ad campaigns might aspire to do, said Dan Ross, president of Wechsler Ross & Partners of New York, a marketing consultant to the investment industry.

"It's aimed specifically at trying to create familiarity with the name," he said. "They feel the need to make a strange, foreign name feel warm and fuzzy."