First Tech Gets Even More Squirrely

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Chuck and Leroy are back. The two First Tech Credit Union spokesquirrels that originally made their debut in the summer of 2009 have returned in a new trio of TV ads.

In the spots, Chuck, a Western Gray Squirrel and First Tech member, explains to his dumber companion Leroy why it’s better to go to his credit union for financial needs like mortgages on burrows and checking accounts for storing nuts.


FIRST TECH – “CHOCK FULL OF NUTS”
Chuck and Leroy discuss storing their nuts at First Tech Credit Union.

The commercials are zany enough that they are likely to accomplish their main purpose — to attract attention and generate name awareness for First Tech — but it’s unclear how the squirrels fit within the credit union’s broader overall brand.

To support this new wave of ads, First Tech has created what it describes as a “engaging and interactive” microsite, NutsForFirstTech.com, where visitors can explore Chuck’s virtual treehouse. “Guests get an interactive tour of his digs and a peek at squirrel life while discovering how First Tech can help move their financial life forward,” the credit union said in a press release.

The site’s main navigation is built around a blueprint of Chuck’s treehouse, creating a virtual reality interface with 24 different nodes. You can click on Chuck’s letterman jacket for information about membership. Clicking on a shelf stacked with buckets of nuts will inform you that First Tech has budgeting tips.

Links for further information direct visitors back to First Tech’s main corporate website.

First Tech, working with ad agency partner R/West, built a real squirrel-sized treehouse for the microsite and panned a motion-controlled camera around the set to create realistic-looking visual sequences.


SETTING THE STAGE

This miniature treehouse — a make-believe squirrel burrow — was used to film sequences for First Tech’s microsite, NutsForFirstTech.com.


EXPLORING THE TREEHOUSE

There are four rooms with 24 different things you can click on in Chuck’s treehouse. Clicking on the bucket of nuts brings up this message.

“We knew First Tech wanted to highlight the benefits of being a member and what sets them apart from other financial institutions, but in a fun and interactive way,” said Sean Blixseth, president and creative director at R/West. “Nutsforfirsttech.com gives you a close-up view of what it’s like to be a part of the First Tech family.”

The NutsForFirstTech.com microsite dives so deep into the squirrel metaphor that — at first glance — it’s hard to tell the site has anything to do with financial services. There is an offer to get $50 when you switch to First Tech checking, but the offer feels overshadowed by everything else that’s going on. Take a look around for yourself and see if you think the concept works.

Key Questions: What’s next? Will First Tech’s squirrels break through to iconic- or viral status? Or will they jump a shark? And will Chuck and Leroy survive First Tech’s planned merger with fellow technology credit union Addison Avenue? Or will they get squashed on the road to a new joint brand?

First Tech Credit Union has $2.2 billion in assets, 165,000 members and 17 branches in Oregon and Washington.

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