Collaboration turned partnership results in success

By Rich Schmig, Plum Moving Media,
Contributors Patrice Nault, Plum Moving Media; Jack Hearst, Hearst Marketing Resources

In 2008, WESTconsin Credit Union, located in Northwestern Wisconsin, asked their advertising and marketing agency, Hearst Marketing Resources, to help with an image awareness campaign to complement their product and services advertising.  According to Jay Fahl, chief marketing officer at WESTconsin, “We were looking for a way to differentiate our financial institution from the competition and communicate the WESTconsin Credit Union experience.”

According to Jack Hearst, president of Hearst Marketing Resources, there’s a high degree of sameness in financial advertising.  For the most part, all financial institutions offer the same products and services.  However what separates WESTconsin from others was the experience the staff delivered to its members.  It was that point of differentiation that Hearst focused on.

Hearst teamed with media production company, Plum Moving Media, relying on Plum’s ability to participate in the creative and strategic process of determining the direction for the television and radio campaign.  The collaboration between WESTconsin, Hearst and Plum resulted in a campaign that never shows buildings, never mentions rates and doesn’t expound on products or services.  Rather, the campaign focuses on members’ stories and their feelings about where they bank. 

Kelly Daley, writer producer and director at Plum, and the Hearst team, saw a common message throughout the interview process with prospective members. In unscripted interviews, members talked about WESTconsin being part of the community; how the credit union has “always been there for them,” “the WESTconsin staff knew their names,” and “members owned the credit union.”

“Members selected to be in the commercials were chosen based on how interesting their stories were, instead of the type of accounts they had,” said Hearst.  According to Daley, “Through the stories, viewers see their neighbors, co-workers, and themselves, and the role WESTconsin plays in their lives.  We found that often times these financial relationships spanned generations.”

Directing these spots means spending a day with regular people and helping them forget that a video crew has invaded their space. The process requires creating a spot from a daylong interview, hours worth of footage and a lifetime of experiences.  These stories are told in 30 seconds, but are so engaging that it was a shame to leave so much untold and unseen. Plum Moving Media proposed creating longer versions of the television spots using the existing footage. Hearst and WESTconsin agreed and webisodes were created. That’s not the end of it.  Plum created an outtake video that was used at an event held for the members featured in the spots.  In addition, a humorous spot was created from outtakes.  “With a name like WESTconsin, it was easy to find funny outtakes. Unlike other financial institutions, we thought it would be okay to poke a little fun at ourselves,” said Fahl.  A single shoot yielded a great return on investment for the credit union.

This collaboration turned partnership between Hearst, WESTconsin and Plum, has proved successful by any measure. WESTconsin Credit Union exceeded their goals amidst increased competition.  They actually grew!  The 2008 campaign was followed up with additional spots in 2009, and Plum and Hearst are in the process of completing a third campaign.  Continued growth is still the driver, but the spots have become popular, taking on a life of their own, creating hometown celebrities, of sorts.  Just ask one featured gentleman, who, stepping off a plane in Orlando was recognized as “the WESTconsin guy” from back home. 

They work.  They’re memorable.  They are also award winning.  For the second year in a row, WESTconsin received national awards from the Credit Union National Association recognizing “the best-of-the-best in credit union marketing, advertising and business development” in their asset size.  The spots have been judged as excellent in the financial, marketing and video fields, for both creativity and results, winning numerous Telly, Videographer, Communicator and CUES Golden Mirror Awards.

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