The campaign, which the CUs are hoping will have a nationwide application, uses TV, radio, newspapers and the Web to deliver a "calming" message.
The ad blitz cost $780,000 and is funded by the 45-member Credit Unions of Washington. It is aimed at placing CUs "in the hearts and minds of consumers" as the financial institution of choice during economic turmoil.
"Our specific research shows the caregiver archetype ad really presents the best opportunity for credit unions to distinguish themselves from banks without simply going negative and still do something about diminishing fear," declared Kevin Foster-Keddie, president/CEO of Washington State Employees CU of Olympia and chairman of the co-op ad committee for CUs of Washington.
A special element of the latest campaign, which started Feb. 16 and winds up at the end of March, is the 15- and 60-second TV commercials that hit on feel-good family images of kids sharing ice cream cones and a college graduation.
"The campaign offers interludes of peace amid financial chaos, including a series of 'financial chaos-free moments,' all with a simple yet profound sentiment that gets right to the heart of what credit unions are genuinely all about," explained Bill Grant, president and founder of Big Bang Electrical, the Seattle agency that produced the ads.
Grant said the spots, which began appearing on more than a dozen TV stations across the state, "are already getting good response, with one CEO telling me he wanted to cry" after seeing them.
The financial chaos-free moments ads were created in tandem with newspaper, radio and interactive online messages, all produced "as tributes to satisfied credit union members in a suffering world," said Grant.
"People are being bombarded with messages about stability and being told everything will be fine," said Grant. "Membership Means Something isn't just a tag. The financial chaos-free moments came straight from the credit union's conservative nature and caring approach in good times and bad."
Foster-Keddie said work on this latest campaign has been ongoing since last fall, following the JPMorgan Chase takeover of Washington Mutual.
"Washington Mutual was a very tough competitor for us, but now we've found an opening, a huge opportunity for us on customer service with the JPMorgan Chase takeover," said Foster-Keddie. "Things are crazy and the consumer, now fearful, is looking for guidance."
The Olympia CEO said the ads will now be made available to other CU groups "and might work well in other markets." Terms on how to share costs and contracts would have to be worked out, he said.
The official Web site for the campaign is www.discovercreditunions.com, which was also created by Big Bang.
"The weight of the world right now can be heavy," said Big Bang's Associate Creative Director Stephen Hindley. "Hopefully, this idea helps take the load off for a couple seconds."