Four Mythical Creatures Credited For Ending 'Myth' About CUs

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Thanks to four mythical creatures, credit unions in the greater Los Angeles area are enjoying increased public awareness of CU membership and automated teller machine availability.

A two-year cooperative advertising campaign wrapped up with a series of radio spots, which aired from March to June. The radio ads consisted of 60-second spots starring "Bigfoot," "Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster," a leprechaun and an alien. The creatures say they wish to address the public's misperceptions about themselves, as well as credit unions.

Teresa Freeborn, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Kinecta Federal Credit Union and chair of the campaign task force, said the ads were necessary to help change public perception.

"People love credit unions-every study and focus group we do finds that-but we also find people tune out credit union ads because they think they are not eligible," she said. "At least one-third of the copy in every Kinecta ad must be spent explaining to people that they can become a member, then we can go on to talk about the rate or the product. It's a big job, which is why I'm such a supporter of cooperative advertising efforts to dispel myths about credit unions."

According to Strata Research, a company that measured the results of the two-year advertising effort, awareness among non-members of the fact that nearly any adult can join a CU rose to 46% at the end of this year's flight of radio spots from 42% in February 2003, before the first leg of the campaign began. Recall of credit union advertising rose to 46% from 36% during the same time period, despite an overall drop in recall of all financial institution advertising, which fell to 71% from 73%.

In June of this year, 11% of the public remembered the "mythical creature" ads.

"We do continuous tracking right through the campaign," said Freeborn. "It is very important to the cooperative advertising effort to have the numbers to back us up, so we do a final study as soon as the campaign ends."

All of these gains came despite the fact the campaign had less money in 2004 than it did in 2003. Freeborn attributed the shortfall to fewer CUs participating, which affected the size of the media buy. One change was last year's campaign included billboards and radio spots, while the 2004 version only had radio ads.

Why Convenience Matters

"But there still was a good impact. Our messages are being picked up. People are aware they can join, and that ATMs are convenient. Unless you are convenient-if people do not believe your ATMs or branches are convenient to them-then you aren't even going to be considered."

Some of the credit for increased public awareness should go to the CUs that are advertising themselves, she added.

Freeborn thanked the California league and its director of public relations, Henry Kertman, with helping administer the campaign. The league did not contribute any funding-the ads were paid for by CUs in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

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