If you were one of the millions who visited New York City’s Times Square between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, you would have seen on one of the biggest billboards a public service announcement benefiting credit unions. One of the most trusted names in personal finance, Suze Orman, reminded visitors that the National Credit Union Administration does for federally insured credit unions what the FDIC does for banks: insure consumers’ deposits up to $250,000 per account.
The announcement appeared twice an hour for six weeks. The value of that placement in Times Square was priceless. The cost was nothing.
In all, 86 million consumers across America have now seen the NCUA’s education campaign, raising public awareness about how federal insurance ensures that credit unions are safe and sound places to save.
We launched this campaign for two key reasons.
First, our portion of the financial sector had experienced tremendous uncertainty last fall. The NCUA had conserved several large institutions, and we needed to send an important message to consumers about the stability and protection offered by the NCUA federal insurance sign.
Second, the public simply didn’t understand that federally insured credit unions remained as safe as other depository institutions. We made this necessary expense to calm jittery depositors, educate the public and restore consumer confidence in credit unions. In so doing, we believed the campaign would provide a benefit to individual credit unions. And it has.
To deliver our message to the American people, we created free public service announcements on TV, placed companion ads on radio and in print and plastered our PSAs on billboards and websites.
To effectively communicate our message, we needed the right messenger. We therefore enlisted Suze Orman, the personal finance expert millions of Americans trust to give them direct, honest advice.
Educating Americans about their financial options is a worthwhile investment during the best of times. In volatile times, when public faith in financial institutions had fallen to an all-time low, it became imperative. At the NCUA, it is our duty to allay consumers’ fears, combat uncertainty with information and fill in gaps in public knowledge.
Recently, some have criticized the campaign as an unnecessary expense. However, the results show that the campaign’s benefits have far outweighed its costs.
We budgeted $1.7 million for the campaign and so far have spent $1.4 million. I recognize that’s a significant investment. But to put it in perspective, the value of the donated advertising time and space– including that electronic billboard in Times Square–has now exceeded $4 million. That’s a tremendous bang for the buck.
After producing the campaign, our strategy depended largely on donated advertising time and space. Because of the importance of the message, the campaign received more free publicity than we had even hoped for. To date, we have made 56 million impressions online, 15 million on TV, 12 million in print and 3 million on radio. All those impressions support consumer confidence in credit unions.
As for our decision to feature Suze Orman, it’s clear that the visibility and credibility she lent the campaign were well worth the investment.
She agreed to serve as the campaign’s face because she shares our mission of equipping people with the information they need to make sound financial decisions.
As a result of her involvement with the NCUA, Orman has become a passionate and ongoing advocate for credit unions. She constantly tells people to cut up their bank credit cards and to get a credit union credit card instead. I like to say, we paid for her head, but she threw in her heart for free.
I’m immensely proud of everything the NCUA accomplished through this consumer education effort. This investment has paid dividends far outweighing its costs. In a time of uncertainty, the public needed to hear this message.
Credit unions’ greatest asset will always be public trust. Thanks in part to this campaign, consumer confidence in credit unions remains high.