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LOS ANGELES – A $1 million advertising campaign aimed at “dispelling myths” about credit unions was scheduled to be launched Feb. 27 by more than three dozen Southern California credit unions. The cooperative advertising campaign will utilize radio spots and billboards. Credit unions from the Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire area are participating in the program, which has been in the planning stages since last year when the L.A. Area Cooperative Advertising Task Team began meeting. The campaign is designed to inform the public that anyone can join a credit union, that credit unions offer a large network of ATMs and that the institutions offer a wide variety of products and services. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about credit unions,” noted Tom Thompson, director of corporate communications at First City Credit Union. “We think the general public doesn’t understand what credit unions are so there’s a lot of misinformation we want to clear up for people. Our hope is to build awareness and understanding of credit unions.” To do that, the series of 60-second radio spots will utilize mythical creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, an alien and a leprechaun to try to get the message across. The ads will not be product specific. “In developing the radio portion of the campaign, we thought, what better way to dispel myths than to have mythical creatures as spokespersons?” explained Teresa Freeborn, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Kinecta Federal Credit Union in Manhattan Beach and chair of the ad task force. “So our radio ads feature these mythical creatures who complain that there are all these misconceptions out there about them, just as there are with credit unions.” The radio spots will air on both AM and FM stations between Feb. 27 and run on and off three times through July. They will air on stations throughout the Los Angeles area as well as throughout Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Some 200 to 225 commercials are expected to air each week. According to the media buy, there will be more than 8 million impressions among the target audience in the 25 to 54 age group. The commercials are expected to reach 35% of the target audience three times during each period they are aired. The billboard campaign, featuring four different messages, is set to begin in mid-March and will run continuously through mid-September. It will utilizing seven billboards at a time on freeways and key surface streets with sites rotating every two months. The 14-foot-by-48-foot billboards will feature tongue-in-cheek messages, such as “What do you call the ideal bank? A credit union.” The ad campaign marks the first time credit unions have launched such an effort in the media expensive L.A. area. Some 325 credit unions are in the four-county area where the ads will run, according to the California Credit Union League. Thompson and Freeborn both agreed that it took a cooperative effort to get the campaign underway and that no single credit union could have undertaken such an ad blitz on its own. “One of the strengths of credit unions as a cooperative industry is that, working together, we can do what no single credit union has the resources to do,” Freeborn said. “We look forward to dramatically increasing consumer awareness and steadily building credit union business over time.” According to the league, only one in two people can name a local credit union, and only one in five know what a credit union is. “With this image and awareness campaign, we’re going to change that,” a league spokesman vowed. “We’re focusing on dispelling the myths about credit unions,” Freeborn added. “People don’t know that anyone can join a credit union, that it’s easy to do, that we have more than 15,000 ATMs in our network and that credit unions offer a full line of products and services – some even better than banks.” The advertising agency of Foote, Cone and Belding in Southern California was directing the campaign. -

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