By Ray Birch
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—What John Merritt likes about the set of new, edgy TV commercials Tennessee Valley FCU has created is consumers can’t get the ads’ jingles out of their heads.
“I knew we had created something that resonated with the community when members stop in and tell me they can’t stop hearing, or singing, our commercials’ jingles,” said Merritt, VP of marketing for the $1.4-billion TVFCU. “I think the spots have done very well for us.”
Tennessee Valley has created four unique—if not offbeat—commercials that take a unique approach to talking about the credit union and its services. One spot features a young man singing about how easy it is to get a loan at Tennessee Valley to pay his bills. The video includes shots of the young member holding a giant wallet and a “past due” bill 10 times its normal size, as well as eating from a giant bowl of cereal.
Another commercial promotes the CU’s car loans with a song from a band wearing animal heads playing music at a used car lot, touting the ease of application and other advantages of Tennessee Valley car loans.
There are four 30-second spots in the series that all use music to pitch the benefits of doing business with the credit union.
Local Talent, Local Benefits
Merritt said Tennessee Valley used all local talent, which he believes helps the spots to resonate with the community.
“With so many distractions in today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to cut through all the clutter and stand out. So, we worked with our agency to create a new campaign that is edgy and unlike anything else in the area,” Merritt said. “The advertising campaign features four local groups from different musical genres. The artists wrote original songs about TVFCU products and services—focusing on car loans, home loans, ITMs and the credit union difference. The songs were then developed into four memorable, original commercials to help cut through the clutter and keep TVFCU top of mind.”
Reflecting the Community
Merritt explained that Chattanooga in recent years has become a home to an increasing number of artists and musicians.
“With this campaign we wanted to do something to show we knew Chattanooga was a creative community,” Merritt said. “That message has indeed hit home.”
With strong local creative talent, Merritt said the credit union turned to a local advertising agency to develop the commercials.
“The commercials cover different genres of music to address different demographics,” said Merritt. “It's been interesting—the Millennials seem to like the commercials, but equally we've had a number of older people tell us they really like these ads. I can’t go to the YMCA anymore without someone talking to me about the commercials. There’s one older gentleman who stops me all the time and lets me know how much he likes our spots. The commercials are really raising our awareness.”
Move Away from Testimonials
Jimmy Johnston, creative services manager, said TVFCU has taken a completely different approach with its new advertising. The CU introduced the first spot in the series in October 2018 and then launched another during the Super Bowl.
“We have done testimonials in the past, for so many years,” said Johnston. “We could have refreshed that approach, but decided not to do that. One reason is a lot of other financial institutions and other businesses have begun using testimonials in their ads, so we felt that approach here has been overused.”
Uptick in Membership
Merritt said TVFCU has not yet measured the effectiveness of the television ads, but noted the credit union is seeing an uptick in membership and overall growth.
“But I want to give it a few more months before I'm ready to declare these commercials are a big success,” said Merritt. “What I can say is that we had been bringing in about 1,200 new members a month and now the number is closer to 1,700.”
In addition to the television commercials, TVFCU has also repurposed the spots for YouTube ads.
“We are also using them for other online avenues and plan to do some print,” Merritt said, adding the new commercials cost more than the testimonials, which he said had been easy to produce and at a low cost.
Not An Easy Decision
Merrit said making a 180-degree shift from the TVFCU’s previous advertising approach was not an easy decision.
“There was some risk here, we knew that,” said Merritt. “We were stepping out and making a big change. When you make the decision to be edgy and different, you are really looking for an immediate reaction from your members and the community. And we have gotten that, and almost all of the reaction has been very positive. Sure, there are some people who won’t like what you do, we got complaints even with our testimonials.”
‘Do Something Different’
Merritt said TVFCU is already planning edgy spots for its next round of adverting when it’s time to refresh the current ads.
“I encourage other credit unions to do something different,” he said. “Go for some entertainment value in your commercials as you deliver your message. We found we have engaged people more this way. People want to be entertained, they want to stop, listen and look. These commercials are doing that to people.”