A stiff, slightly chubby and balding pinstriped banker stands next to a younger, bearded, red-shirted credit union representative who just keeps topping him.
“At Apple Federal, we have really great people,” says Credit Union Guy.
“Hey! We have ‘people’,” says Big Bank Guy. “But our legal team feels that saying ‘great people’ could be overpromising.”
To emphasize his point, he puts air quotes on the words “great people.”
“Gee, that’s kind of sad,” replies Credit Union Guy.
In another video, Credit Union Guy talks about being “big enough to give you everything you need, without being too big,” Big Bank Guy’s eyes light up on the word “big.”
“We’re big enough to get bigger, and bigger!” brags Big Bank Guy. “There’s no limit to our bigosity!”
Northern Virginia’s Apple Federal Credit Union is using the long-running and much-loved “PC vs. Mac” TV spots of the mid-to-late 2000s as inspiration for its latest ad campaign.
In the original ads, “PC” guy, typically clad in at least a sports jacket if not a full suit and tie, was always trying to brag about his lame offerings while “Mac” dude, typically in casual clothes, would talk about all the fun things you could do with a Mac. “PC” would sneer about the frivolity of all that Mac stuff, and sometimes try to sabotage the Mac guy. The pair worked through dozens of scenarios.
Apple FCU has no official connection to the technology company with a similar name. The Apple of banking started as a teachers’ credit union in the 1950s, but has since grown into a community institution through a series of mergers. It now has 2.5 billion and 21 branches.
For many years the credit union, which changed its name to Apple in 1987 (choosing an apple for the teacher connection), used member testimonials in its advertising, according to Cynthia McAree, SVP for Marketing, Research and Member Engagement. “I wanted to try something completely different,” she says. Management agreed and a new agency, Planit, was brought in.
In 2018 the first homage to the image-making of Apple, the tech company, came with a parody of the dramatic new product reveals for which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was famous. The “Jobs” figure in the commercial, clad in a dark turtleneck with a huge backdrop — except this one bears the credit union’s logo — unveils its own answer to Siri: an employee who can answer fellow humans’ financial questions.
“We were fighting off the computer brand comparison for years,” says McAree. “Finally, we decided to embrace it.” Late last year the credit union launched a promotional microsite, promoting its “PC versus Mac” ads and other aspects of the “Other Apple” branding.
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Targeting a Younger Audience
The credit union’s sweet spot is people 30-55 years old, with 37% of its members being Millennials. Given the younger target for membership, “we thought that a humorous campaign would resonate,” says McAree. The original “Get a Mac” commercials were recent enough to be memorable to consumers fitting the credit union’s desired profile.
Given the tech savvy of such consumers, and the general trend to cord cutting and otherwise avoiding commercials, a strong portion of the exposure the credit union is buying for the April-December campaign is “over the top” news and sports coverage — content delivered via streaming, rather than through broadcast and similar channels. McAree explains that this tends to be watched live, which reduces the chance that the Apple spots won’t be seen. Some audio spots have also been arranged, running on Spotify and Pandora.
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Going with a Funny Approach to Financial Services
While humor isn’t unheard of for financial services advertising today, it wasn’t that long ago that many brands frowned on it, acknowledges Trevor Villet, Group Creative Director at Planit. Some providers just didn’t think the needs they filled were ripe for comedy. Villet says that Geico broke the ice with its Gecko and Caveman spots. Now, of course, many national financial brands have opted for funny.
“That makes it a lot easier for people like us to propose comedy,” says Villet. He adds that local financial brands can be easier to convince to try something a bit different. Smaller companies have fewer layers of approval to work through, and an idea can have a better shot of coming into being without being diluted. While the “Jobs” spot was going more for parody than a chuckle, the current campaign is more laugh-ready.
“It’s an easy way, if you can create good comedy, to make the message memorable,” Villet says.
One thing that hasn’t been a problem is any messages from lawyers for the other other Apple, says Villet. “It’s a homage to a really iconic campaign.”