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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. – After several months of coordinating efforts that included working with an advertising agency and cable companies and designing an ad – a 30-second animated commercial promoting the benefits of being a credit union member-the New Jersey Credit Union League Advertising Cooperative launched its nine-month advertising campaign April 1. What viewers see is a 30-second animated commercial that promotes the benefits of being a credit union member such as earn better interest rates, get low mortgage rates, and investments, ends with the tagline “New Jersey’s Credit Unions: Making the Garden State Even Greener” and offers the League’s Web address for more information. At one point during the commercial, the female announcer says, “The New Jersey Credit Union League estimates that one in eight people benefit from being a credit union member. That includes your neighbors, your friends, maybe even someone in your family. So what are you waiting for? Join a credit union today.” “It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a short time,” says Jessica Mikulski, public relations specialist with the New Jersey League. “Since the League convention at the end of November, we hired an advertising agency, developed a creative concept, signed up with the cable companies and got the commercial done. Everything is really getting rolling.” Scheduled to run 2,193 times through December 2004, the ad is expected to make an estimated 141 million impressions on New Jersey cable viewers – an average of 2.5 impressions per household. The spot airs to both Comcast and Cablevision subscribers on TNT, TBS and The Weather Channel networks and should reach approximately 95% of New Jersey’s residents. The NJCUL ad co-op currently has 33 members, but Mikulski expects several more CUs to sign on now that the group’s first ad is complete and has begun airing. As part of its initial effort, the ad co-op budgeted into its program the cost of burning copies of the ad onto CDs and distributing the copies to other CUs in the state to attract more co-op members. “It’s a brand new program, something the League never has done before,” Mikulski says. “I’m sure a lot of credit unions want to see what’s going to come out of it, the quality of the finished product. But, we’ve got big dreams [for the ad co-op], and already we’re thinking about what’s going to go on for next year. Our current membership is re-enrolling, and while we expect to continue with the cable spots, we also hope to ad some radio spots.” While the NJCUL ad co-op is focusing on a long-term, statewide advertising effort, not far away in Harrisburg, Pa., the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association takes a much more concentrated effort with a yearly media blitz in October to coincide with International Credit Union Month. Past efforts have focused primarily on billboard ads, but the League is starting to expand its efforts. “Last year, our budget was $160,000,” says Michael Wishnow, vice president of communications and marketing for the PCUA. “That’s not much money, and Pennsylvania is a big state.” In addition to its 2003 billboard campaign, PCUA piloted a cooperative advertising pullout section in the Harrisburg newspaper on Credit Union Day. The League sponsored a full-page ad, and the rest was supported by individual credit unions. In 2004, the League plans to roll out the program in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well. “The credit unions were very supportive with ads,” Wishnow says. “Anything the membership likes is effective.” Plans for 2004 also include some radio and television ads to reinforce the billboard campaign. Why the increased outreach? Wishnow thinks people are starting to get the message: Hits on the PCUA Web site quadrupled during the month the League ran billboards last year, and a residual effect continued for two months after. “That’s twice as high as the year before,” Wishnow says. “Now, is it a scientific way to measure the effectiveness of things? No. But we consider it a good sign.” Spanish Television Reaches Out While not embarking on an individual advertising campaign, Pablo DeFilippi, CEO of the Lower East Side People’s FCU in Manhattan, has done something much greater. He has cultivated a working relationship with Spanish-language broadcasting giant Telemundo and its local anchor/journalist Ricardo Villarini to the point where the credit union has garnered almost more attention than DeFilippi and his staff can handle. Villarini first came to learn about LESPFCU and the services it offers during the 2003 tax season, when Telemundo as a partner in the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition run by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs agreed to promote sites offering free tax-preparation services to low-income tax payers. Villarini was impressed with LESPFCU’s outreach efforts to the Hispanic community through bilingual materials – LESPFCU serves a multiethnic but largely Hispanic constituency – and the credit union’s staff and members since have been featured in several stories that have aired during the news show’s financial segment. Most recently, at the end of March, Noticiero 47 ran a three-minute segment about credit union services, particularly those offered by LESPFCU. This was followed up by Villarini spending a day at the credit union to once again promote the EITC tax credit and free tax-preparation services offered in the region. “The phones have been ringing off the hook,” DeFilippi says. “And as a result [of the most recent story], we broke all records that day-preparing more than 100 tax returns. That’s double what we normally do. “It’s been so exciting for us. This is the type of exposure most credit unions cannot afford. It’s an amazing thing.” -

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