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SEATTLE — For all the success and media hype generated last February over that highly-rated and bargain Super Bowl ad, the Washington Credit Union League, as it turned out, also took a few lumps experiencing some practical, hard-earned lessons about CU branding and the need for a positive “nurturing” theme.

“Yes, we had what you might call a disconnect between the characters in the ad and the true ‘we care’ credit union message,” acknowledged Kevin Foster-Keddie, the architect of the league’s “Together Better” co-op ad campaign, which by a stroke of luck and some say, genius, got the 30-second advocacy ad placed on local TV at a rock-bottom $70,000 rate. Addressing a break-out session at the annual convention of the Washington Credit Union League meeting here, Foster-Keddie called the positive media exposure for CUs leading up to the Feb. 5 game invaluable and unprecedented. And yet the actual ad featuring long-haired, ukulele-strumming rapper characters produced an unexpected negative fallout among members who complained the ad did not fit the CU image they cherish, said Foster-Keddie. Indeed, the ad “was funny with the characters dancing around”, but the TV commercial did not show a caregiver message of member concern, said Foster-Keddie, who also is president/CEO of Washington State Employees Credit Union of Olympia and head of the league’s co-op ad committee. Following the appearance of the ad, paid for by the 20 sponsoring Washington and Alaska CUs, bloggers seized on member complaints lampooning the commercial as in poor taste. In April the league pulled the ad just as the $500,000 TV run ended. Wasting no time, the league committee went to work to come up with new commercials, hiring a leading Northwest branding firm, Brand Solutions Inc. of Medina to guide the league panel. Brand Solutions, which counts Microsoft, Nokia, and Nordstrom among its clients has acknowledged developing a “sophisticated branding” package for the league undertaking focus groups on CU branding in three cities across the state over the summer. Also, the league did a Web opinion survey on what the public thinks of CUs. A central goal of the new commercials going into the 2007 campaign, which could start appearing this winter, will be membership, said Foster-Keddie. The cost of the new campaign–complete with the Brand Solutions expense, hiring a new ad firm and the cost of the commercials–is budgeted at $690,000 with the tab being picked up now by some 25 Washington and Alaska CUs plus FSCC, a California-based shared branch firm. Will there be another Super Bowl ad?

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