Ad Campaign Raises Awareness Of CUs In N. Nevada

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One year after nine credit unions in northern Nevada funded a cooperative advertising campaign to raise public awareness of credit unions, officials say the program has worked, but that there is considerable work left to be done.

The campaign consisted of television and radio spots featuring the "Public Education" and "Comfort Zone" ads CUNA developed three years ago. The ads ran from April to December 2002, at a cost of $124,634. The campaign was followed by a public awareness survey of northern Nevada consumers in early December.

Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents named a credit union unaided, up from 68% in a benchmark survey in 2000. "Unaided awareness" among non-CU members rose from 41% to 57%.

In addition, 65% of those questioned said they realize nearly everyone is eligible to join a CU, up from 60% two years ago.

According to Dennis Flannigan, executive vice president of Great Basin FCU in Reno, it is difficult to say if the advertisements translated to more members or better penetration, because the survey did not ask people why they joined a CU. However, he said raising the profile of CUs is just the beginning.

"Most people still learn about credit unions by word-of-mouth," said Flannigan. "Step one is to increase awareness. We need to make sure people know the answer to, 'what is a credit union?' The next step is familiarity-understanding the ins and outs of credit unions."

"Once we make people comfortable with credit unions, then they will be able to come to us," he added.

Both Flannigan and Henry Kertman, the California/Nevada League's director of public relations, described the awareness campaign as a "long-term effort." Flannigan said it will be a three-year program that will shift from basic awareness to education.

"People perceive credit unions as being product-oriented, but when they want a checking account, they go to a bank. We have to change that," Flannigan asserted.

Agreed Kertman: "An image and awareness campaign does not immediately bring more members through the doors. But we heard complaints from many credit union advertisers that their ads fell on deaf or confused ears because people don't realize they are eligible to join a credit union, or that credit unions have a full range of services."

The northern Nevada credit unions participating in the cooperative ad campaign are not abandoning their CU- specific ads, but they realize the awareness campaign will help, Kertman added.

More Ads Planned In 2003

Flannigan said the awareness campaign will continue this year. Advertisements targeted at state lawmakers will be shown on broadcast and cable television in Carson City, Nevada's state capital, during the January to May legislative session.

"There are state issues related to credit union taxation that will be voted on during this session, and we don't want to be forgotten," he explained.

The ongoing campaign has purchased $173,537 in media buys from January through October.

This includes television ads, radio spots beginning in June, and print ads in February and March.

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