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<p>After viewing one of the best Super Bowl games I have ever seen, I realized like many Americans that a rousing good football game only enhances seeing the clever commercials for which Super Bowl telecasts have become famous. In years of lopsided match-ups, didn’t we actually look forward to the commercial breaks? This year, with sponsors, ad agencies and broadcasters unsure about how to approach viewers in the wake of the September terrorist attacks, we still saw some interesting salesmanship on the air. It is reported that a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl show cost approximately $1.9 million. This year, even the United States government paid a reported $1.5 million, the most ever paid by the government for an anti-drug commercial. I wondered, `What is their logic?’ The answer is simple: a commercial on the Super Bowl show can reach 50% of American households at once. Most everyone in the country watches the game; even people who are not football fans watch it. It’s an American Ritual. The Olympics airing this month will reach 90% of American homes in its two-week run. That four-year event draws a huge crowd too, but it’s the Super Bowl that over time has really honed the advertising message and been the place where companies have debuted new campaigns and products. They don’t call it “The Big Show” for nothing. Super Bowl advertisers have also learned to shift their appeal to target different demographic groups. When I heard Led Zeppelin music as background for the Cadillac commercial (the first Led Zeppelin song ever used in a commercial) and the ever popular Beatles’ song Taxman for an H&R Block ad produced by the Coen brothers (directors of Raising Arizona and other movie hits), I realized that JFK’s inaugural speech had come back to the future: the torch has been passed to us Baby Boomers. And what about that time travel commercial starring Brittany Spears! There she was, at the soda pop fountain in the 50s, grooving in the 70s and spiking up the 80s as one of the model/dancers in the famous Robert Palmer video, Simply Irresistible. The wonders of digital and video manipulation let Spears and Pepsi bridged several generations in a matter of minutes. While these companies are American icons with huge market share, they still invest millions of dollars to be seen by millions of Americans. What about Monster.com giving former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani 30-seconds to thank the nation for its support after Sept 11? Clearly, besides amusement (the Budweiser commercial where the guy slid out the window was very funny) there is still a place for a heartfelt message. My point in thinking out loud about all this is that I am worried about where all the new credit union members will be coming from. I’ve seen have some fine TV advertising in local markets that try to reach those who don’t belong to a credit union or who are unaware that they exist. Wouldn’t it be great to reach 50-90% of American households and communicate the credit union message? How can this be done? Certainly it will take an H.R. 1151-style campaign to begin the effort, but I believe communicating the credit union brand to American consumers using television should be an important part of a massive media campaign for our nation’s credit unions. Who is up for the challenge? Several years ago a major insurance carrier targeted the credit union community for marketing alliances and affiliations. One of the problems they found was that their corporate identity was not as well known nationally to make economically sensible to target the entire CU community. But Aflac’s famous duck is now inseparable from the idea of supplemental insurance. NACUSO is doing its small part by featuring the benefits of advertising at our conferences. But we are a very small part of the much larger picture. I don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest about a national advertising campaign, but shouldn’t we put a bee or two in the TV bonnet? I’d love to hear ideas on what can be done. And I’d welcome your comments.</p>

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