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HEATH, Ohio – Hopewell Federal Credit Union didn’t have to look further than within its walls to find its new spokesperson – President/CEO Al Smith. “We think Al Smith is a very sellable person to the Licking County community. He’s local, passionate and has a likable on-air persona,” said Hopewell FCU Marketing Director Jeff Kraus. “I would say he has the potential to be Newark’s version of Dave Thomas and we know how successful his TV career was.” According to Kraus, given Smith’s 40 years in the credit union movement and his longtime roots in the area, the shift to commercial spokesman makes sense. Smith is being featured in radio and television commercials here. In each spot Smith appears with Kraus who usually takes the full brunt of the joke while Smith plays the “straight guy”. “It was a good fit. We’re in a community where local really means something to people,” said Kraus. “We also looked at other industries and noticed they put their top person out there and we felt that wasn’t something that was being done here so it was a good opportunity for us to stand out.” Smith adds that he was a little hesitant at first but has gotten more comfortable in his role. “It helps that it isn’t just me in these ads. It’s Jeff, front line employees and others so it’s a way for members to get to know us better,” said Smith. “The response has been great and we’ve been hearing very positive comments.” Smith adds that he works out at a local health club three times a week, and since the ads have run not only has he been recognized but more of his fellow gym-goers have been stopping by the credit union and signing up for new accounts. “What’s great is these commercials have got people talking about the credit union and it’s bringing people in the door,” said Kraus. Working with the theme that as a credit union Hopewell FCU “is still the best kept secret in town -no one knows they can join”- the spots find the right balance in comedic timing and sharing valuable credit union information. For example, the first television commercial features Smith and CFO/EVP Jim Johnson in a meeting setting with Kraus spying on them while the two discuss the benefits of membership. At the end of the ad, Kraus ends up having a bucket of water poured on him. In one of the radio spots Smith refutes many of Kraus’ one liners with facts about the credit union. Kraus says working directly with the radio stations and cable companies to produce the spots has helped keep campaign costs down. So far some six radio spots have been completed and two television commercials with a third slated in upcoming weeks. The commercials run on a variety of such popular cable stations as ESPN, the Weather Channel, Lifetime, Fox News and Discovery. In addition to running at set times the spots can also run randomly throughout the day. It must be working. Since the February 1 inception of the new commercial philosophy, HFCU has seen an increase of some 60 members. “That is quite a turnaround for us,” said Kraus. “I think consumers see us in a different light other than the serious stance of most financial institutions. We take our business seriously but we also show that we can have fun and take a lighter approach and people seem to respond to that.” Smith and Kraus agree that the credit union will stay the course into the foreseeable future and given the team atmosphere at the credit union there will be opportunity for many staffers to get their 15 seconds of fame. [email protected]

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