From the archives of an attic in Weston, CT to America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester, NH Vicki Thomas, former head of CUNA’s National Advertising program delivered a box of advertising campaigns created in the ‘70’s to the ‘80’s to increase interest and awareness in credit unions. She presented them to Stephanie Smith, Executive Director of America’s Credit Union Museum.
“America’s Credit Union Museum is honored to have received this gift from Vicki.“ said Smith. “Her legacy and knowledge of credit union history will be preserved and available for generations to come. We look forward to including these archives in the CUNA Research Center and sharing them with future visitors.”
The CUNA Executive Committee unanimously approved the idea of a National Advertising Program for credit unions in February 1972. The objectives were threefold: 1) to create increased awareness of credit unions; 2) stimulate additional statewide spending to make the messages heard and seen by more people; 3) emphasize ‘belonging’ as the unique quality credit unions offer throughout the United States.
The tagline “Join Your Credit Union – It’s Where You Belong,” was adopted not only by US credit unions but also by neighbors in Canada and down under in Australia.
“At that point in time one million dollars seemed like a lot of money. Yet in the advertising business one million dollars even then could be spent in a day without blinking and eye,” said Vicki Thomas.
In 1972 the credit union national advertising campaign raised $857,666.68 dollars with voluntary contributions using a formula of $50.00 per one million dollars of assets. Leagues from Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin donated 100% of their fair share and CUNA Mutual donated $200,000 as well.
Chad Everett, star of the highly viewed network TV show “Medical Center,” and a credit union member became the national spokesperson with the creation of 12 national TV commercials that appeared in the World Series, NFL football, ABC and CBS network news, 60 Minutes and four color national print ads that appeared in Newsweek, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s and Redbook.
CUNA’s Managing Director at the time, Herb Wegner in the 1973 NAP annual report said, “the pride of belonging reinforces affiliation, organizational discipline and gives both leagues and CUNA the opportunity to take greater advantage of the potential of political unity, which has been described over the years, but in substance has been very difficult to apply to our everyday problems.”
In 1976 and in 1980 the nations credit unions became the proud sponsors of ABC’s coverage of the Winter Olympic Games from Innsbruck, Austria and Lake Placid, NY. Tie-in materials were developed so credit unions could identify themselves to their members as sponsors of the Winter Olympic games.
“Today in Congress” an exciting news and information program hosted by Joseph McCaffrey was sponsored by credit unions on radio WMAL in Washington DC heard daily by senators, congressman, legislative assistants and administrative agency personnel.
In 1978 airfares got lower and TV rates got higher. Life Magazine was born again. John Travolta became movie king and Cheryl Tiegs became a poster queen. Consumers were buying food processors and microwave ovens and standing in line to see “the treasure of Tutankhamen.”
In the financial arena banks developed the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and explored truncation. Savings and loans continued building America and signed Bob Hope to do a series of television commercial messages. Credit Unions experienced a tight money crunch.
It became obvious that the theme of the Credit Union National Advertising Program needed a new direction. The nation was watching “Roots” and tracing their genealogy. NCUA administrator Larry Connell emphasized the need to re-examine our major strengths, and St. Germaine echoed the same comments.
When research findings revealed “we aren’t as friendly as we think we are,” there was a quality and feeling that needed to be conveyed in a real sense.
As a result “All kinds of People” theme was developed. It premiered with the music on an extensive National Credit Union Week radio buy with over 24,000 spots. The National Advertising Program went back to the beginning of credit unions. People were the basic ingredient. The national campaign demonstrated real concern for people and dramatized all the ways credit unions could help. The characters featured in the new series of television messages told potential members nationwide why credit unions were unique.
Credit unions also had a float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA winning the Queens’s Trophy, Sweepstakes, Theme Prize and President’s Trophy.
“At that time most credit unions did not have a marketing budget or a marketing staff. There were 23,000 credit unions and 38 million members,” said Vicki Thomas. Today there are over 100,000,000 members and a little over 6,000 credit unions. Credit unions have come a long way and marketing directors are doing a great job continuing to promote the many advantages of belonging and providing excellent service to members.”
Vicki Thomas left CUNA in 1983 to join the ABC television network in Chicago and then onto to New York. Today, she is in her encore career helping Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit based in Statesville, NC improve Veterans lives one home at a time. She has no desire to retire, which to her means to go away. She takes great pride in making a difference in the lives of others and giving back. She resides in Weston, CT with her husband Steve. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org