The two campaigns, as well as other CU efforts dealing with foreclosures and member growth, were produced separately but reflect the industry's interest in gaining market presence.
Using computer animation and a micro Web site, the $2 billion First Tech Credit Union said it has launched what it calls a two-year marketing strategy using two squirrels, "Chuck and Leroy," who are "FirstTechFans" and the CU's advertising voice to promote advocacy and engage the public.
First Tech officials said the animated animals as CU advocates have been in the planning stage under guidance of a Portland agency, R/West, for more than a year. The first phase, using TV, radio and billboards, will run through November.
"They are savers-rounding up nuts for the winter, they are really good at planning, always prepared and work tirelessly to achieve their goals," said First Tech.
At First Tech, the goal is to engage new members. And as part of the campaign stories were created for the squirrels. Chuck is a western gray squirrel who enjoys making smart financial decisions and is a member of First Tech. However, his laidback friend, Leroy, enjoys lounging in his hammock naming different types of nuts but is not a First Tech member...yet.
Deborah Colby, First Tech's vice president of marketing, said using squirrels "is fun and different and a welcome change in credit union marketing from happy people riding bikes."
Since the campaign was launched in May, the reaction so far has been favorable, Colby said.
"One thing's for sure, the kids just love the commercials, so we'll see how that goes," said Sarah Simmons, a partner at the agency, R/West. The new micro Web site for the campaign is firsttechfans.com, and there are plans to have the squirrels pop up on Twitter and Facebook as part of the online activities.
Meanwhile, the league's $320,000 "Be Smart" TV awareness campaign of the Oregon league was slated to wind up June 30. It also uses animation "in a simple and direct" format that ends with the line, "So why would you do your banking anywhere besides a credit union?"
The network and cable TV spots take viewers through a series of non sequiturs, "as in things you obviously would not do. Like salmon fishing next to a grizzly bear." The ads conclude with the bank-versus-credit-union question.
"The spots are not flashy or upscale, but they seem to be working," said Laurie Kresl, vice president of Unitus Community CU of Portland. In addition, since the campaign began three months ago, the ads have helped build a 88% increase in traffic on the CUAO Web site, you-belong.org, she said.