Instant Messaging Twist: CU Does It Via Billboard

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Erie School Employees FCU has signed on to a unique billboard campaign with instant messaging capabilities controlled by a computer at its main branch.

The $155-million credit union is one of only two companies in Pennsylvania, so far, to take advantage of the technology offered by Lamar Advertising Company, of Baton Rouge, La.

Mary Beth Wilcher, chief marketing officer of ESEFCU, said the billboard is located at the end of a major highway with a traffic light. "If they stop at the red light, directly ahead of them is our billboard," she said.

The top two-thirds of the vinyl sign, which will remain the same throughout the year, shows a lending representative at her desk with a member. To the left, a message reads: "Financial Solutions from Local People You Trust," with the CU's logo just below it.

The bottom third of the board is covered by an LED unit with a black background that can display short messages in red, lighted letters.

"We have an actual schedule of messages," Wilcher said. "At different times of the day and different times of the week, we change them."

For the most part, the one- to three-word messages are CU-related. Past examples include "PRE-APPROVAL," "$50 FREE GAS" and "60 MON TERMS." During the Christmas holiday, the sign invited passersby to "COME SEE SANTA." And, at 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve, the words "PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY" appeared.

"We can put whatever we want up there," Wilcher said, noting that there has been some discussion about showing sports scores-"Our CFO is a big sports nut," she said-and public service announcements.

The credit union that serves more than 200 SEGs at three branches has a strong presence in the community, Wilcher said, adding that she felt this type of advertising only adds to that.

The only drawback, she said, is that it isn't cheap. ESEFCU had to make a one-year commitment, which cost $3000 up front and a $450 monthly maintenance fee. Erie School Employees has an additional $10,000 billboard campaign with Lamar.

Since being installed last fall, she said the feedback from members has been great. "People have told us it's really cool," Wilcher said, but added that it would be impossible to track its impact on the CU. Still, she said, the CU is considering a second year run when the contract expires.

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