Pulling No Punches

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Perhaps it's the result of being the punching bags of banks for so many years, but some credit unions around the country are taking off the gloves with their advertising.

In the City of Brotherly Love, for instance, Philadelphia Federal has unveiled an aggressive new campaign, including one ad that states, "Most people think banks are a necessary evil. We agree. Except for the 'necessary' part." In Minnesota, HiWay FCU has sponsored advertising that reads, "Four out of five bankers fear us (the other one is a member)." In Los Angeles, 50 credit unions are sponsoring radio ads and billboards. Reads one, "What do you call an ideal bank? A credit union."

For the two months following a Sept. 15 launch, Philadelphia Federal will use advertising making bold statements (and a few zingers) touting the differences between banks and credit unions and will decorate the city's rail cars, Septa buses and billboards.

The campaign, which is PFCU's first effort to aggressively educate potential members, focuses on its benefits in comparison to the fees charged by commercial banks.

For example, one ad states, "There are a number of reasons to leave your bank. Most of which start with $." Below that headline is the simple tagline, "BetterThanMyBank.com." The strategy counts on leading the curious to the website that lists "14 Ways Philadelphia Federal Credit Union is Better Than Your Bank." The website directs users to the CU's website, which explains who is eligible and how to join.

"And, if they find out they are still not eligible," Eavis said, "we ask that they give us information such as their name, their company and the name of their human resources director.''

She said the website created specially for this campaign will enable the CU to track the success of the ads and help staff gain new leads to possible SEG enrollment. The $460-million PFCU serves more than 600 organizations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware through its nine branches.

Eavis said the campaign is a bold leap from traditional advertising, but "very Philadelphia.''

It was the result of work from The Brownstein Group advertising firm in Philadelphia, the same agency that lead the credit union's successful brand campaign last year. While Eavis declined to identify the cost of the campaign, she said the amount involved 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.''

First External Campaign

In the CU's 50- year history, Eavis noted, this is its first externally focused advertising campaign.

"The language in the ads is intentionally direct and a bit irreverent," she said. "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.''

She said Philadelphia Federal's board gave its full support to the campaign, agreeing that it was fair competition."I can honestly tell you that we don't consider this to be a smear campaign," she said. "We are simply making a strong comparison to banks . . . to catch the attention of our target audience.''

Drivers, for example, will see four different billboards from Interstate 95 going in and out of the Philadelphia area. One near the Philadelphia stadium complex makes light of the growing number of stadiums being named after banks-including the city's just opened home to the Philadelphia Eagles, to which Lincoln Financial has bought naming rights-reminding perspective and current members where banks are spending much of their profits. The message: "Our members are our owners. So don't expect our name on anything soon.''

The CU also bought out all the advertising space on the rail cars of the Broad Street line and the Market-Frankford El to tell their captive audience why PFCU is a better choice than banks. The rail cars present real PFCU ads alongside fake generic bank ads that tell hypothetical stories that outline the fees banks charge. For example, "GigantaBank USA treats my money like it's their own.''

Message Takes The Bus

Eavis said three buses in three high-traffic areas of metropolitan Philadelphia will carry PFCU's logo, the BetterThanMyBank.com website, and ads that reference the banks they pass along their route. One reads, "This Bus passes by 14 banks. And for good reason.''

Eavis said the campaign has three goals: "To increase awareness among the general public about the advantages of credit unions in general and PFCU specifically," she said. "To provide more information about these advantages to consumers and organizations (via the website) and to increase membership among people who have an affiliation with PFCU as well as among those who don't."

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