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SunTrust launches campaign to help reduce financial stress felt by 3 of 4 in U.S.

SunTrust, campers by the lake

One tip on the new SunTrust page advises consumers to imagine their goal and take responsible financial steps to realize it. Credit: SunTrust

By David Pendered

SunTrust has purchased a TV ad during Super Bowl 50 to launch a consumer education campaign. It intends to help people ease their financial stress by helping them improve their skills managing money.

SunTrust campaign

SunTrust is launching a campaign to help people reduce their financial stress in order to improve their quality of life. Credit: SunTrust

SunTrust chose the nation’s largest TV audience in order to draw widespread attention to the bank’s new Onward and Upward campaign, dubbed onUp.

The TV spot has a voice-over by actor Gary Sinese. The TV ad is posted on the campaign’s interactive website.

SunTrust created the campaign in response to its research, which indicates financial stress could be considered a national epidemic.

SunTrust reports that 80 percent of Americans say money worries keep them awake at night. Nearly three-quarters of Americans feel financial stress. Nearly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, regardless of the size of the paycheck.

Website visitors can take a quick quiz to learn their financial profile. The site is packed with simple steps people can take to curb spending and manage their finances – steps aimed at improving their quality of life.

Allison Dukes, chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust’s Atlanta division, said a good illustration of suggested spending cuts involves skipping that daily cup of designer coffee. The $5 can be saved or spent elsewhere – as a gift, perhaps, or donation to a favorite cause.

Allison Dukes

Allison Dukes

“My husband and I committed to do it,” Dukes said of the coffee example. “We started making a pot of coffee in the morning. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference and it’s achievable. These are small goals that add up.”

Some of these small goals are outlined in a chapter on the onUp site titled, “Save Big: Three simple strategies that work.” Here are highlights of the page:

  • Keep your eye on the prize: “Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have $1,200, I’m going to charge it,’ the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money [Steve Repak] says, “it’s a lot more manageable to break that price down and set $100 aside every month.”
  • Economize … reasonably: “Rather than telling yourself you can never order takeout again, Repak recommends reasonable cuts to small items in your budget. For example, say, ‘I’m going to start packing my lunch,’ or ‘I’m going to go to the movies every other week, instead of every Saturday,’ he says. It’s about giving up little things.”
  • Enjoy your savings success story: Repak sees a lot of clients who are encouraged by the first steps they take toward saving. “After they’ve accomplished their first big goal, they see that the little changes in their behavior can be rewarding,” he says. “Instead of looking for immediate gratification, they get the delayed gratification.”
SunTrust, campers by the lake

One tip on the new SunTrust page advises consumers to imagine their goal and take responsible financial steps to realize it. Credit: SunTrust

Dukes said SunTrust is offering onUp as part of its mission to promote financial literacy. SunTrust has embedded financial literacy in its purpose message:

  • “SunTrust is a purpose-driven organization, dedicated to lighting the way to financial well-being for our clients, teammates and communities. We embarked on this purpose journey a couple of years ago. Lighting the way to financial well-being means helping people and businesses gain the confidence and control they are seeking over their finances.”

In April 2015, Dukes and her predecessor, Jenner Wood, volunteered at Marietta Middle School. They were part of SunTrust’s teamwork with Junior Achievement to provide financial education programs in Georgia, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee through the month of April, which is National Financial Capability Month.

Wood was promoted in October 2015 to executive vice president in SunTrust’s corporate office. Dukes was promoted simultaneously to lead the bank’s Atlanta/Georgia division.
“Now is the time to take action and do things to reduce financial stress,” Dukes said. “OnUp is to inspire people to define their financial personality, and provide tools and tips for small things that can make a difference.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. SteveH February 5, 2016 9:48 am

    What the heck is “financial well-being” anyway? Having a checking account at SunTrust? This is a really bizarre thing to be spending shareholder resources on. Best I can tell, they’re running a Super Bowl ad to get people to sign up for financial tips that are already available from lots of other sources that aren’t trying to sell you something.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch February 5, 2016 1:37 pm

    If I were a SunTrust shareholder, I would be very angry about this misuse of my equity. STI shares are down 17% year to date versus only 10% for PNC and other competitors.
    The days of STI being a top class bank and business ally of Coca-Cola are long gone, and STI is now just a small, 2nd tier, poorly performing US bank.Report

  3. Millions Wasted February 9, 2016 12:13 pm

    Taxpayers bailed out SunTrust and this is the thanks they get? SunTrust’s ad scored 53rd lowest out of 63 Super Bowl ads according to USA Today’s Ad Meter.

    SunTrust exhorted viewers to hold their breaths, then told them that
    what they were feeling was akin to financial stress. The bank then
    claimed it would “help lead the way” to improving the nation’s financial
    confidence. How is the bank going to do this? Needless to say, there
    was no mention of that.
    Was there nobody at the bank’s ad agency with access to consumer data that shows that many people believe that banks are the cause
    of financial stress and lack of confidence? It’s 2016. Consumers aren’t
    buying these empty promises that banks are going to somehow help people
    relieve their financial stress and/or achieve their financial dreams.
    Fun fact: SunTrust’s ad scored highest in Delaware and Maine. I don’t think SunTrust’s footprint includes Maine, does it?Report

  4. ChuckMc February 10, 2016 12:02 pm

    Not only is this an appalling waste of resources, it is staggeringly hypocritical. I’m a SunTrust employee and am seeing outsourcing contractors all over the place. Right now, Infosys — one of the largest Indian outsourcers — is conducting informational interviews with everyone in my department. SunTrust has shown that is perfectly happy to send work to India, and I won’t be surprised if my job goes, too. Needless to say, this has created a lot of stress — financial and otherwise — for me and my colleagues. 

    Meanwhile, Suntrust management is spending millions on dumb superbowl ads, websites that no one is signing up for (onup.com) — and did anyone mention the bizarre pep rally we had at Phillips Arena with Darrius Rucker? That must have been expensive too. 

    All of that money could keep a lot of people working in Atlanta. Instead, the company is flushing it down a rat hole and sending jobs to India. This place is shameful.Report


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