Can augmented reality and Web videos make funeral homes and banks hip?

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The goal is to have William Skoglund leap out of Old Second Bancorp’s annual report.

The 140-year-old community bank is using technology to stay relevant to a new generation, working with an augmented reality app to make numbers and charts — and a Max Headroom-style version of Skoglund, its chairman and CEO — as dynamic as a live show.

It’s the latest transformation at Aurora-based Old Second, which is seeing a nearly 20 percent jump in new checking accounts after leveraging Crest Communications’ digital marketing know-how to pitch incentives to millennials.

The key to the checking account promotion was to put the information in a smartphone app and in online advertising, and to use video and targeted ad placements and an algorithmic formula on media such as, Facebook and

Crest Communications CEO Bob Vorel says the Oak Brook company is planning for the projected flip-flop of video and data use on smartphones and tablets, when, two years from now, experts say 70 percent of the information on people’s mobile devices will be video and the remainder, data.

After the 2008 recession halved Crest’s revenues and its 20-person staff, it recovered and rebuilt its production house. Vorel has hired more than half of his new employees for their digital skills.

Their work has nothing to do with traditional marketing. It is all unscripted.

“We reflect reality,” Vorel says. “When someone reads a blog or watches a video, they quickly get the persona of the business. It’s an experience.”

The firm’s philosophy works well for longtime local businesses like Hammond Organ in Addison and Elmhurst’s Gibbons Funeral Home.

Marya F. Gibbons is still getting used to being contacted by prospective clients who appreciate seeing the grand piano in her funeral home’s lobby in photos and video on Facebook and YouTube.

“A family came in a couple of weeks ago, passing five or six other funeral homes in the process, to get to me,” Gibbons says. “They saw the online videos, got an idea of who we were and wanted to get prepared.”

Tech transition

The funeral home and other traditional businesses have discovered a new voice with social media. Working with Crest has enabled Gibbons to create a mobile-responsive Web design, a virtual tour of the funeral home, and the chance to use video to subtly market success stories, such as hosting a memorial Mass each month at Old St. Pat’s for the past 60 years.

Previously, the funeral home invested a few hundred dollars a month in church bulletins and calendars, but Marya Gibbons is convinced the company’s more than fivefold increase in spending on social media is paying off.

Challenge for Crest

The Web is awash with marketing companies and crowdfunding initiatives aimed at helping businesses tell their stories via social media, and on video in particular. Just recently, GoDaddy bought Locu, a San Francisco-based company that helps local merchants get “found” online with digital identities.

Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, says small businesses and their social media advisers face a joint challenge: making sure they achieve the right marketing balance and that they respond quickly to any surprises that pop up on any digital channel.

ABOVE: Robert Valaitis, center, EVP at Old Second Bank, gets ready for a shoot in Crest Communications’ new video production suite. Crest photo

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