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OMAHA, Neb. – Trying to expand the public profile for credit unions, the Nebraska Credit Union League has doubled its budget for co-op ads this year and contends the expense for several flights of radio ads is paying off in higher awareness. “We’ve stood back for quite a while now and let bankers take center stage which is why we felt we needed to inform the public about the differences between credit unions and other institutions and why they should join,” explained Robert Tingelhoff, chairman of the League. The current campaign which costs $80,000 and debuted in February has a Web link for quick member signups. The campaign is currently in its second flight of ads with two more sets to run including one from August through December during University of Nebraska football games. “It might seem like peanuts in places like California or New York but remember we don’t have as many major markets in Nebraska and so the cost is pretty reasonable,” said Laura Polak, marketing director. “It’s a campaign that is made affordable for Nebraska credit unions and it is a significant endeavor for us.” This year’s campaign created by Redstone Communications of Omaha differs markedly from those in the past because of its stress on CUs’ community role and non-profit structure, said the League. Previous campaigns have focused more closely on products and services. “There’s still plenty of people out there who really don’t know what a credit union is, and since we got our TIP charter a year and half ago we feel this kind of campaign can be helpful in letting members of the public realize they are eligible to join,” declared Roger Hake, president/CEO of the $147 million Nebraska Energy CU in Columbus. Echoing Hake, Laurie Napier, vice president of marketing at the $50 million Omaha FCU, said CUs “ought to jump” for this kind of advertising as an opportunity to educate the public about credit unions. “We do a good job at selling our products and services but we fall short in educating what exactly is a credit union,” explained Napier. “We really have a long way to go and should bank attacks come here in Nebraska, we need the public on our side.” Like other Leagues launching broader co-op advocacy campaigns this year, the Nebraska League is finding there is hardly unanimity in contributing to the costs though the trade group developed a “fair share” formula for contributions based on size and membership. “We had 49 of our 75 affiliated credit unions with the vast majority contributing the full recommended `fair share’” said the League. Both publicly and privately, CU executives have expressed disappointment not all CUs are on board contending the non-participants are able to make use of the positive fallout from League ads in their own commercials. James Guretzky, president/CEO of the $279 million SAC FCU, the state’s second largest and which is contributing some funds, said his CU is tracking the League program but for the time being “is continuing with our own advertising” as the best use of its marketing dollars. Tingelhoff, chairman of the League and of Omaha Public Power Employees District FCU, said the campaign should be effective in small communities in the state “where the public knows little or nothing about credit unions and where the banks dominate.” This kind of campaign “is pro-active rather than reactive which is what we need,” he said. The first flight of 60-second radio ads in February was an introductory/ information spot, but the current flight relies on humor and has a “Have we met?” theme, said the League. The ads stress that Nebraskans can “control the future of their finances” through CUs and “is a place where earnings are returned through lower fees, loan rates and higher savings. The ad concludes that a CU “is a place where being a customer means being an owner.” -

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