Eye-Catching Sign Worth Fine

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HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-First Entertainment Credit Union placed some eye-catching signage on its Studio City branch-which turned out to be a little too eye-catching for some.

Using a vinyl material that is similar to that used for bus wraps, First Entertainment covered the branch's front windows with the message, "Chased away by your bank? Seek refuge here. Join First Entertainment Credit Union." While passers-by could not see in the building, branch staff could see outside, allowing them to witness the reaction of passing drivers slowing down to take a look.

"The messaging was tongue in cheek and meant to take advantage of all the discontent people are feeling toward all banks," said Roy MacKinnon, VP-marketing for the $860-million CU, adding, "We did not single out Chase."

Approximately two weeks after the window wrap went up, a man was seen outside the branch taking pictures. A security guard went outside to question the man, who was wearing a Chase name tag and reportedly said, "I'm taking pictures because we think it is funny."

A few days later, the man returned and was taking more pictures. Challenged again by the security guard regarding his intentions, the Chase employee insisted he had the right to take a picture.

Code Enforcement Bureau Writes

In mid-June, First Entertainment CU received a letter from the Code Enforcement Bureau for the City of Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety. MacKinnon told Credit Union Journal the letter documented a $350 fine against First Entertainment CU for installing signage without first obtaining a permit from the city.

"But even if the credit union applied for a permit, we were told signage on that street is limited to 10% of the surface area of the building visible from the street," he recalled. "We were told we had to remove the display by mid-July," which the credit union has done.

According to MacKinnon, the purpose of the window wrap was simply to call attention to the branch and let people know they can join the credit union. Despite the $350 fine, he considers it mission accomplished, because the intersection where the branch is located is sees between 5,000 to 10,000 cars passing by every day.

"It was up there for three months; I got my use out of it," he said. "We got fined, live and learn. We had some fun doing it. It was different, certainly for us."

Member feedback was positive, MacKinnon said, with many saying they found the sign funny. Several people who joined attributed their membership to the sign and expressed frustration with their bank.

"A good component of our brand is being alternative," MacKinnon explained. "We say we are an alternative way to bank and we use a lot of humor in our marketing. Our marketing can be a little off-the-wall. I don't regret doing it at all, and if I was able to annoy Chase, that's just icing on the cake. I don't have proof Chase filed the complaint, but it was a big coincidence that one week after someone from Chase was there taking pictures we received the letter from the city.

"Goliath won, but we poked him in the eye with a sharp stick," he added. "We had some fun and lived to fight another day."

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