Who Is Helping Calif. League Debunk CU Myths? None Other Than Bigfoot, Nessie

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A one million dollar advertising campaign designed to dispel "myths" about credit unions while raising awareness kicked off in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area on Feb. 27.

The campaign, which currently features four 60-second radio spots and soon will include four billboard ad designs, is aimed at residents of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The California Credit Union League estimates there are approximately 325 CUs in this four-county area.

The radio spots each feature a different mythical creature-Bigfoot, a leprechaun, a space alien and "Nessie," also known as the Loch Ness Monster. The creatures say they wish to address the public's misperceptions about themselves, as well as credit unions.

The billboards, which are scheduled to be unveiled some time in March, each will have a short slogan: "The only requirement to join a credit union: common sense," "What do you call the ideal bank? A credit union," "Repeat after me: I can join a credit union," and "Where will you find a credit union ATM? How does 'everywhere' sound?"

The radio spots and the billboards direct people to the California league's CU Match Up Web site: http://www.findacreditunion.org . The site has an interactive database that allows people to look up which CUs they are eligible to join.

The California league and a group known as the Los Angeles Area Cooperative Advertising Task Force worked on the ad campaign for several months, according to Henry Kertman, the league's director of public relations.

Teresa Freeborn, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Kinecta FCU in Manhattan Beach, Calif.-the largest CU in LA County-is the chair of the LAACATF. More than 40 L.A.-area CUs have contributed money to the effort so far, with more expected to join in the future.

"One of the strengths of credit unions as a cooperative industry is that, working together, we can do what no single credit union has the resources to do. We look forward to dramatically increasing consumer awareness and steadily building credit union business over time," Freeborn said in a prepared statement.

Kertman told The Credit Union Journal the current campaign has its roots in a statewide co-operative ad effort the league attempted to cobble together four years ago. There was "significant" interest among California's largest CUs, he said, but the $4 million raised at the time was not enough to bankroll the estimated $9 million to $12 needed for a statewide television campaign.

"We turned to individual regions where there appeared to be enough interest to do an ad campaign," Kertman said. "The first campaign was in the Eureka area in Northern California, and the second was in Northern Nevada."

About one year ago, the league made presentations to groups of CUs in Northern and Southern California. When CUs in the L.A. area showed interest, the participants formed a task force, raised money and hired an ad agency-Foote, Cone & Belding.

"Four years ago, when we were looking into the statewide campaign, we gathered together the 50 largest credit unions in the state," Kertman recalled. "The group heard a presentation by Teresa Freeborn, who at that time was with Credit Union Central of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She was doing a provincewide ad campaign in British Columbia."

Shortly after that meeting, Freeborn moved to Kinecta FCU. Kertman said Kinecta's CEO, Tom Graham, deserves a lot of credit for the current ad campaign.

"He made an early commitment to the campaign, and he, Freeborn and Kinecta provided a spark," he said. "The league helped coordinate the campaign, with strategizing and fund raising, and recruiting credit unions to participate."

Recent studies by the California league found only half of the state's residents can name a local credit union, and only one in five knows what a CU is.

To see the billboards or listen to the radio spots, go to the California Credit Union League's website. The address for the ad campaign is http://www.ccul.org/lamarketing.

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