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WALL STREET, CALIFORNIA | INCOME INVESTOR / JAMES BATES

And Now, for Best Marketing Gimmick . . . : Oscar Winners Can Also Mean More at the Bank Office

March 18, 1997|JAMES BATES

Next Tuesday morning, you can be thanking Academy members yourself.

Or cursing them.

Colorado's Bank of Boulder is offering as a marketing gimmick a 15-month certificate of deposit with a rate pegged to the outcome of next Monday night's Oscar telecast.

For what it calls the Cinema Awards CD, the bank starts by selling the certificate at a guaranteed minimum 6% annualized interest rate, with a $1,000 minimum deposit and $1 million maximum. The deadline to get in on this is midnight Saturday.

The bank will then kick the rate up a quarter of a percentage point if you predict the winner for best picture and an additional quarter of a percentage point for predicting each of 12 other categories, ranging from the serious (best actress, best foreign film and best live-action short) to the silly (the number of acceptance speeches during the broadcast cut short by the orchestra, the number of standing ovations, and the tally of winners who say, "It's an honor just to be nominated").

Two non-Oscar predictions are included as well: the worst film named in the Golden Raspberry Awards, an Oscar spoof run by Los Angeles film buff John Wilson, and the change in the Dow Jones industrial average the day after the awards show.

That brings the potential rate to 9.25%. The bank will then raise the rate half a percentage point more in the unlikely event there is a tie in either major acting category and half a percentage point if a single film sweeps best picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay.

Finally, a whopping 2 percentage points will be added if the consensus best-picture favorite, "The English Patient," sweeps all 12 awards for which it has been nominated. Fat chance that will happen, however, given that nobody in the film's cast is a favorite in the early betting.

Should all of those events occur, the rate would climb to 12.25%, an exceptionally high rate.

Not likely, and bank President Steve Bosley knows it.

He believes that, realistically, the bank will end up paying from half a percentage point to 1 percentage point more to people taking up the challenge.

Bosley said that a CD pegged to the Academy Awards is one of several quirky ones the bank has been offering lately to drum up business and get some attention.

Last year, the bank offered a presidential election CD with various categories for customers to predict, such as the popular vote. Those who bought that one could still get a bump in their rate if such things as a balanced budget amendment, a term-limits bill and a capital gains reduction become law during the life of the CD.

"We could run generic ads saying we're paying a high rate. But decided to have some fun with it," Bosley says.

Another was pegged to a football game between hometown University of Colorado and the University of Michigan. Bosley promised a variety of incentives, among them a 2% jump in the rate if the game ended on a "Hail Mary" pass, which it nearly did.

So far, Bosley says, the bank has sold $2 million worth of the Cinema Awards CD, and it expects to sell more as Oscar night approaches and people consult the predictions appearing in newspapers and magazines in the days before the telecast.

Although there's no dispute over who wins an Oscar, Bosley acknowledges that there could be a difference of opinion in defining some of the bank's murky categories, such as the number of standing ovations and the largest entourage.

So who has the final say? Bosley says that his marketing department does and that it's spelled out in the CD contract. Indeed, a brochure for the CD clearly says: "All the Bank of Boulder decisions are final."

James Bates is a Times staff writer. He can be reached via e-mail at james.bates@latimes.com

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