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BUENA PARK, Calif. – California Agribusiness Credit Union is currently running its first radio advertising campaign, having purchased 260 60-second spots that will run for 13 weeks. That’s hardly news, except for two important things: Cal Ag is only a $22 million credit union, and the radio station is Spanish language KUNX 1400 AM, broadcasting in Ventura County, nearly 100 miles from the credit union’s Buena Park headquarters. The intriguing media buy is the result of a cold call to president/CEO Adam Denbo from Ventura-based Gold Coast Broadcasting, which represents several FM and AM radio stations in the area. “At first I said we’re not interested, but when they persisted, I asked them to tell me how much it is up front, and when I found out how inexpensive it was, I said, `whoa, now it’s worth talking about’,” Denbo said. Whoa is right. The CEO said he purchased airtime and production for only $3,900. That’s more than $1,000 less than a direct mail postcard campaign the 5,400-member credit union is currently running. According to Gold Coast, the ads reach 5,000 listeners in the 25-54 age group. While Ventura County is quite a distance from Cal Ag’s headquarters, it’s smack dab in the middle of one of California’s busiest agricultural areas, which racks up more than $1 billion in revenue each year, according to the county’s Web site. The credit union has relationships with more than 20 SEGs in the area, and maintains a service center in Oxnard. The ad script educates listeners about Cal Ag’s 70-year history of serving the industry, explains the not-for-profit credit union difference, and promotes loan consolidation. It ran seven times a day during the first week of the media buy, and was reduced to four times daily for the remainder of the promotion. The ad also includes a local number, (805) MIEMBRO, which means “member” in Spanish. Listeners are instructed to call the number, which connects directly with the credit union’s headquarters, for more information. “We were thinking we needed a catchier number, and for the longest time I was trying to think of something in English, but I thought `wait a minute, I’m thinking of the wrong target market here’,” Denbo said. “Miembro, with seven characters, fit perfectly. Plus, 643 is a Ventura prefix, so it worked – I can’t even get that number in 714 (the credit union’s headquarters area code).” Credit unions serving Hispanic markets, take note: alas, all 800-MIEMBRO numbers are already taken. Denbo said the ads, which took only three weeks to produce from Gold Coast’s cold call to the first air date, have been successful. By 10 a.m. the morning the first ad was aired, the credit union received a call from a potential member, and calls have continued to come in. All Cal Ag employees who answer incoming calls are bilingual. In fact, Denbo said he tapped his staff for expertise when approving the ad. The credit union has employees from three different Spanish-speaking countries, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, who reviewed the script and confirmed that it made sense in the three dialects, which represent the majority of Spanish speakers in Southern California. Denbo, who has an IT background, arranged for three paths for the promotional number, so up to three people can call and be transferred into the credit union’s main line. Surprisingly, the credit union wasn’t doing much Spanish language marketing when Denbo took over as CEO on May 23 of last year. “In my everyday visiting with SEGs, seeing our walk-in traffic and listening to folks on the phone, the majority of it is in Spanish. It really surprised me that we didn’t have a Spanish language member application or marketing materials in Spanish,” Denbo said. A bilingual loan application, and a Spanish article summary to the credit union’s quarterly newsletter was introduced in 2005, and Cal Ag will debut a bilingual membership application this month. The board is supportive of the new marketing strategy, the CEO said, which will include bilingual marketing whenever possible in 2006. Cal Ag’s field of membership includes employees of the more than 600 agricultural companies that belong to the Golden State’s United Agribusiness League, as well as other agricultural companies obtained through mergers. [email protected]

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