RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- From Maine to California, the industry fired up expensive and extensive safety and soundness media campaigns with an eye both of gaining market share and assuring the public of the wisdom of doing business with credit unions.
In some areas, the media blitz conducted in radio and TV interviews as well as in newly revamped ad campaigns, was paying off by drawing in new memberships, shares and loans. Many were aided by CUNA and state leagues but joined in by CU consortiums everywhere.
At least three state leagues rolled out new print and radio campaigns this month, spending extra ad dollars to include the new $250,000 insurance cap as well as hitting hard on the theme of CUs as beacons of stability in the turbulent financial seas. Meanwhile, marketing departments were busy contacting producers and reporters to discuss CU safety while at the same time lining up CEOs for talk show interviews.
There were some negatives. One was a front-page The Los Angeles Times article, headlined "Credit Unions Aren't Immune," discussing the large reported losses at some of southern California's biggest CUs.
Henry Kertman, vice president of public affairs for the California/Nevada league, said his trade group had been made aware of the Times article "about two months ago," but separate plans were already underway to adjust the long-running public advocacy campaign in California and Nevada markets with print safety and soundness ads. The ads hit on CU capital and that CUs remain strong lenders.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association said it was spending an additional $100,000 in new supplemental safety and soundness radio ads, which began Oct. 9 and will run three weeks in major markets including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Iowa Credit Union League said it was also ponying up $100,000 for commercials approved by the trade group's stabilization fund administrative committee, deemed "critical at this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty."
In an e-mail message to CEOs, the ICUL maintained "much has been accomplished over the past few weeks to help Iowa credit unions and their members navigate through these fast-moving and unnerving economic conditions."
"Our policy works team has been diligent in tracking related legislation and regulations, while our ICUL public affairs and consulting staff have aggressively reached out to media and provided your credit union with member communication materials to directly convey the credit union safety and soundness message," said the league.
Full-page color print ads were scheduled in 13 of the largest Iowa newspaper markets Oct. 12 "with an extended run in The Des Moines Register state edition," said ICUL.
"Through this print ad campaign, Iowa credit unions will reach a circulation of more than 974,000 Iowans, which is greater than our state's membership base," concluded the league.
In Portland, a coalition of nine Oregon CUs in a three-day blitz took out full-page ads Oct. 9 in three major state papers to reinforce the NCUA's $250,000 insurance coverage and to convey the trust and value theme "in a unique way demonstrating strength and community commitment."
The ads appearing in The Oregonian, The Statesman Journal and Eugene Register Guard, all contain digitized signatures of the CEOs as well as individual CU logos in what was described as a new approach to convey the CU brand in a "noncompetitive" format.
"We don't think there are many examples across the country of nine of the biggest credit unions in a state collaborating like we have in a quick manner to produce and distribute this kind of ad with statewide coverage," said Kelly Schrader, senior vice president of OnPoint Community CU of Portland, which coordinated the project.
The ad inserts, headlined "For Generations Oregon Credit Unions Have Stuck to the Basics: Service, Value, Safety, Trust, Community," were running Oct. 12 and 14.
Had CUs acted individually with separate ads, the CU message might have been lost, said Schrader. The ad campaign was financed by the CU group rather than the Credit Union Association of Oregon, though the trade group "was involved in what we were doing all along," said Rob Stuart, president/CEO of OnPoint.
A tagline on one of the ads reads, "Join one of Oregon's 83 credit unions at you-belong.org."
The ad campaign received attention and support at the annual meeting of CUAO, which convened in Beaverton also on Oct. 9, the first day of the blitz, according to Stuart. "Credit unions have a unique opportunity to make their case and it is important we act quickly," suggested Stuart.
A CUNA spokesman said the trade group was pleased with its new ad series containing the $250,000 language. CUNA has looked "at the possibility of national advertising but the cost was an obstacle," said the spokesman. He also pointed out that NCUA already was running nationwide ads.
The most expensive and the largest voluntary campaign was launched by Michigan Credit Union League in a statewide radio blitz.
The "Credit Union Difference" radio campaign, costing $700,000 and continuing for six weeks and later in 2009, underscores a new trust theme and stressing credit unions are a source of financial advice and responsible lending during the nation's financial crisis, said the league.
"We've gleaned ideas from other co-op campaigns around the country, and so we are hopeful that other state leagues, individual credit unions or credit union groups might want to adapt what we've produced in our ads and on our Web sites," explained David Adams, league president/CEO in detailing the branding concept.