Casting call: Credit union TV ad contest draws 37 entries

In a recent TV ad contest, 37 entrants produced a 23-second spot telling people why they should join SELCO Community Credit Union. Big cash prizes helped fuel a healthy turnout during a month-long entry period.

Launched back in March, the credit union said spots could be edgy, funny, bold, simple, serious, or anything in between.

And that’s what they got. The final top 10 entries selected by the credit union reflect a range of creative styles. There’s everything from safe and conservative to the slightly bizarre. You can view and vote for them at the credit union’s website.

The top three most popular entries will receive $5,000, $3,500 and $1,000 respectively. Voting ends today.

Three finalists feature kids. Arguably the best is Commercial #7 (video):

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The star is a well-cast, charismatic and adorable little girl of uncertain ethnicity (perfect!). The spot’s production is professional, with thoughtful cinematography and great editing — but it’s not too slick. The soundtrack is fresh and easy-going. All in all, good stuff.

In the Credit Union Times, Bonnie Larson, SELCO’s VP of marketing, said “We were so impressed by not only the number of entries and their depth of resourcefulness, but also by the spirit and consideration people invested in their projects.”

With $784 million in assets, 80,000 members and 13 branches, SELCO Community Credit Union has (A) the marketing resources to support such a promotion and, (B) a member base big enough to ensure a decent pool of entries. TV ad contests like this could be a struggle for smaller financial institutions to pull off properly.

The Pros of TV Ad Contests:

  • “User-generated” promotions are fun and engaging.
  • You’ll enjoy a greater range of creativity as compared to more conventional ad-crafting processes.
  • You may be very pleasantly surprised, and end up with a runaway hit like Larissa.

Reality Check: Just because a TV spot is popular and wins a vote in a contest doesn’t mean it’s the right spot to run.

The low production quality of most homemade TV spots doesn’t project a very professional image. While a homemade feeling may be appropriate for some credit unions, this style could reinforce common misconceptions about credit unions — e.g., they are small, limited and not full-service.

Bottom Line:

  • Only pursue ad contests if you are comfortable with uncertain outcomes. What if you only get two entries? What if all the entries suck?
  • When you give the general public control of your advertising messages, you are handing over a large — and very visible — part of your brand strategy. It’s risky. Be sure your organization is cool with this.

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