Whaddaya Looking At? Philly FCU's Advertising

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An in-your-face public awareness campaign launched by Philadelphia Federal Credit Union last fall has done more than just turn heads toward the $465-million institution.

Karen Eavis, vice president of marketing at PFCU, said the bold messages touting the differences between banks and credit unions caught the attention of business leaders and community members who liked what they saw and joined (CU Journal, Sept. 15, 2003).

"During that two-month period, we received about 100 requests for member applications and I would say 50% of those did join," Eavis said. "We also had 12 requests for SEG affiliation and we took in nine new groups."

In addition, she said, the website that tied it all together-www.betterthanmybank.com- received 1.2 million hits in that same time frame.

"When we launched the campaign, it was meant to be an education and awareness campaign," she said. "We were not looking for a return on investment."

Eavis would not disclose the amount spent by Philadelphia Federal on the campaign, saying only that it was far less than what banks are spending for naming rights for stadiums (both of Philadelphia's new sports stadiums are named after financial services providers) or for full-page newspaper ads.

She said the aggressive messages created by a Philadelphia-based Brownstein Group simply pointed out that credit unions don't charge the fees that commercial banks charge.

For example, one ad stated, "There are a number of reasons to leave your bank. Most of which start with $."

Taglines on all of the advertising that decorated city rail cars, Septa buses, billboards and bus racks, read BetterThanMyBank.com, the address to a website that listed "14 Ways Philadelphia Federal Credit Union is Better Than Your Bank."

It was at that website, Eavis commented, that potential members learned more about credit union differences and could download applications to join the credit union.

As the campaign got under way last October, Eavis said, "I can honestly tell you that we don't consider this to be a smear campaign. We are simply making a strong comparison to banks to catch the attention of our target audience."

According to the local press, bankers didn't see it that way.

"We had no calls from bankers personally but there was some response by the bankers association in a Philadelphia Business Journal article about the campaign."

In a Jan. 9 article by staff writer Larry Rulison, Pennsylvania Bankers Association CEO James R. Biery was quoted as saying, "We pay taxes to build roads and people use them to drive to the credit union. You bet we have trouble with it."

Rulison reportedly said credit unions have an unfair advantage since they're nonprofits and exempt from paying taxes.

Among the messages in the campaign:

"I got a super mortgage rate from GigantaBank USA! All for just $9,400 in convenience fees! Now we're talking!*"

* "This bus passes by 14 banks. And for good reason."

* "$3.00 ATM charges? That's the GigantaBank USA Difference!"

* "Bank-4 Letter Word"

While the campaign officially ends this month with the removal of the bus rack and rail car signs (the website will still be accessible), Eavis said, another campaign is in the works.

"This time, we're looking for a concentrated growth effort for a segment area of Philadelphia," she said, adding that it will likely include radio and television.

And, considering the response and the kudos the Brownstein Group received for its creativity, there's no doubt that it will be involved, she said.

During the Philadelphia Advertising Club's recent Addy Awards competition, the PFCU campaign won the Brownstein Group 16 awards, including six gold, five silver and two bronzes. The Brownstein Group, by the way, was also responsible for PFCU's successful brand campaign, launched a year earlier.

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

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