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Bank of America is ready for its Hollywood close-up

April 30, 2010 |  7:49 pm

After taking heat for its role in the financial crisis, Bank of America has been looking for ways to show its influence on the U.S. economy in a more positive light. An unconventional deal that it struck with the History channel could be just the opportunity.

The bank signed on as presenting sponsor of the cable network's ambitious 12-part series "America: The Story of Us," which traces the country's history through the stories of such milestones as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the California gold rush and the Great Depression.

In recent years, television programmers have become increasingly reliant on advertisers to underwrite event-style programs. Still, Bank of America's partnership with History is unusual. Instead of buying traditional 30-second ad spots, the bank produced a dozen two-minute commercials that bring to life episodes of its own history.

"The pieces are different. They are not about a particular [banking] product," said Meredith Verdone, Bank of America's senior vice president for brand advertising. "We will tell the parallel story of how we contributed to the building of the infrastructure of America."

Bank of America plans to spotlight its role in the development of Hollywood during its commercial message that runs May 17. The bank describes how it came to rescue after filmmaker Cecile B. DeMille went "wildly over budget" during the shooting of "The Ten Commandments." Trying to re-create ancient Egypt in California's sand dunes in 1923 proved expensive.  More than 1,000 workers were enlisted to build sets and 2,000 actors were brought in to be extras. DeMille's initial financial backers pulled out, leaving the project in doubt, the bank's commercial says.


"Once Bank of America backs DeMille's artistic vision and offers him half a million dollars, the filming continues uninterrupted," the bank's spot says. "The Ten Commandments" went on to make more than $4.5 million at the box office. Not only did Bank of America finance DeMille, it also backed Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and a little Depression-era movie called "Gone With the Wind."

-- Meg James

Read the full story of Bank of America's influence on History here. 

Photo credit: Bank of America