Credit Unions Targeting Banks in New Ads

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Determined to win market share away from banks, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union is taking off the gloves.

The $460 million-asset credit union has unveiled a marketing campaign that takes direct aim at the fees charged by commercial banks. The two-month campaign, which kicked off Monday, includes one print advertisement that states, "Most people think banks are a necessary evil. We agree. Except for the 'necessary' part."

The campaign is one of several launched in recent months by credit unions in the wake of a recent ruling by the National Credit Union Administration that relaxed the field-of-membership requirements for federal credit unions. Freed from the restrictions that limited their ability to market to the general population, many credit unions now view bank customers as fair game.

HiWay Federal Credit Union in St. Paul, for example, is running an ad in its markets that says, "Four out of five bankers fear us (the other one is a member)." And in Los Angeles, 50 credit unions have teamed up on a radio and billboard campaign that encourages consumers to switch their accounts. One of the ads says, "What do you call an ideal bank? A credit union."

Philadelphia Federal will run its ads on the city's rail cars, buses, and billboards. The 50-year-old credit union's campaign is its first-ever aimed at potential members rather than existing ones.

"There are a number of reasons to leave your bank. Most of which start with $," one of the ads states. Below that headline is the simple tagline, ""

The credit union is betting that curious consumers will visit the Web site, which lists "14 Ways Philadelphia Federal Credit Union is Better Than Your Bank" and explains who is eligible to become a member and how to join.

"And, if they find out they are still not eligible, we ask that they give us information such as their name, their company, and the name of their human resources director," said Karen Eavis, a vice president at the credit union.

Philadelphia Federal serves more than 600 organizations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware through its nine branches.

The campaign is a bold leap from traditional advertising but "very Philadelphia," Ms. Eavis said. "The language in the ads is intentionally direct and a bit irreverent. We consider it to be very current, and it reflects what we deliver to our members - contemporary financial services solutions in a no-nonsense, honest, and direct way."

While she would not disclose the campaign's cost, she said it is "far less than what banks are spending for naming rights for stadiums or for a full-page ad in The Philadelphia Inquirer on a daily basis."

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