Tillie The All Time Teller

My two and a half-year old granddaughter already scrambles up on my lap when I sit down in front of the computer, and asks, “Are you checking your e-mail?”

Even at her young age, she isn’t intimidated by technology. Her generation’s baby and toddler toys Click here to learn about third-party website links are geared to emulate or teach or entertain using technology. It stands to reason that today it would not be necessary for a bank to try and “humanize” its automated teller machine by putting a pretty face and cute name on it.

080709-TillieTeller_small.jpgThat’s because no one is afraid of technology now — except me.

First National Bank of Atlanta Click here to learn about third-party website links, a Wachovia predecessor, was concerned that the relatively new automated teller machine (ATM) it introduced in 1974 would appear cold and difficult to use.

In those days, customers were accustomed to walking inside a bank and chatting with a pleasant teller. So First National named their ATM “Tillie the All Time Teller,” Click here to learn about third-party website links and put the face of a smiling blonde girl on the front of the machine. “Tillie” looked inviting to customers and suggested that the machine was highly user-friendly.

Did it work? In a word, yes. Tillie launched one of the most successful ATM systems in the banking industry.

In their efforts to promote Tillie, First National hired a blonde actress who wore a red and white polka-dotted dress in TV ads. She sang: “I’m Tillie the All time Teller, I work for First National Bank” as she stood beside the machine. In another Tillie ad, a balding, middle-aged man approached the machine singing, to the tune of the classic “If You Knew Susie”Click here to learn about third-party website links

Oh, if you knew Tillie like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh, what a girl!
She works to please me, to make life easy
Oh, oh, she makes my banking smooth and breezy
Day or nighttime, I don’t care
When I need money, I know my all-time teller’s there!
If you knew Tillie, like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh!

080709-TillieSings_small.jpgFor Tillie’s third birthday, she was toasted to the refrain of “For She’s a Jolly Good Teller.” Click here to learn about third-party website links As the song ended in the ad, a drawer opened and blew out three candles!

The bank also hired Tillie look-alikes to help customers at branches learn how to use the machine.

Personalizing this new technology worked for First Atlanta. Customers enthusiastically embraced Tillie and helped her maintain one of the highest transaction rates per machine of any such service in the country. By 1977, Tillie was so popular that three other banks purchased rights to the program.

080709-LineForTillie_small.jpgThere are many computer savvy folks out there who might think that personalizing technology by giving it a human face and name is silly.

I, however, am not one of them.

If only my TV remote, with its multiple buttons and options Click here to learn about third-party website links, was named Ralph and came with a soothing voice saying, “You can do this, you can do this!” I might be able to use my VCR/DVD player!

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Perspective, Wachovia, Women's History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Tillie The All Time Teller

  1. Dave says:

    Haha, that is kind of funny. Seems a little “corny” , but then again, as computers get smarter & smarter and are able to emulate human personalities we might see a comeback in or desire to humanize our computers. Take a look at Terminator 2, the young John Connor personalized the terminator to the point that he looked up to the terminator almost like a father figure even though he knew that he was just a machine with a computer brain.

  2. CJ says:

    Great blog, Trudy!

  3. daniel says:

    the person who made that is my grandfather

  4. QA says:

    I was one of the ops officers at the site of the first FNB Tillie machine. One factor that contributed to the heavy volume was that the bank gave a free Baskin Robins ice cream coupon with every transaction, even for just checking a balance. This encouraged customers to use the machine, helping remove “fears” of a computer.

    Also our competitor at the time was The Trust Company Bank, and they named their ATM T-24. We personalized our ATM with a real name, Tillie. After all T-24 sounded pretty high tech! Our marketing chief was brilliant for pulling this off.

  5. Me says:

    I’ll be the bank didn’t have a service charge to use the ATM. That would have killed it in its infancy!

  6. Rose Rowland says:

    My sister was in one of the Tillie commercials.

  7. Bill Coulter says:

    I worked in the Proof-Encoding dept for the checks. They also gave away Big MAC coupons For employees to test the Machine at the #2 Peachtree Street Location. It was the tallest building in Atlanta at the time 41 stories. I believe the machine was on the 3 or 4th floor. It has been a long time? The Money came in Paper sleeves. You only could get $25.00 incremental amounts. for $100.00 you had to get 4
    $25.00 each pack. They wanted us to test the teller before the general public

  8. Britt Sandusky says:

    I grew up in Atlanta and remember the Tilly song well. Good times.

  9. BoucingBall says:

    The “Tillie the Alltime Teller” jingle is voiced by the same actor that brought you Siri.

  10. Maureen Richardson says:

    Tillie the All Time Teller was created by my old boss, Tom Little of the very famous Atlanta ad agency McDonald & Little.

  11. Jim H says:

    I grew up in Selma, AL in the 1970’s and still remember the jingle well. We must have had a branch of one of the three banks that bought the rights to the Tillie the Teller ads. Back then it was truly amazing to drive up to the bank after hours and get cash from a machine. The mechanized jingle played the Tillie song as you conducted your transaction, lol. As a lil kid, I confused the “Tillie Teller” gal and the Wendy’s hamburger gal often – similar attire. Fun times.

  12. Dawn Vonk says:

    I didn’t know ATM machines were around in the 70’s!!!!!!!

    • Charles Riggs Charles Riggs says:

      Yup, that’s when they got started, Dawn! Read more about it on GBH here — blogs.wf.com/guidedbyhistory/2009/08/a-pocket-history-of-atms/

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