Bacon = Bad Ass Checking from One Nevada

A new campaign from One Nevada is so edgy, it flirts with the edge of social decency. Did they cross the line? Or is this what it takes to cut through the clutter?

You could be forgiven for thinking the latest commercial from One Nevada Credit Union is nothing more than a made-for-YouTube attempt at “going viral.” It isn’t. It is an honest-to-goodness, real, live TV spot that is being broadcast in people’s homes.

The ad is a contemporary parody of life in the 50s — back when Americans were naïve enough to enjoy things like booze, cigarettes and bacon on a daily basis.


It starts innocuously. Mom is frying up a big pile of pork in the kitchen. She turns to announce proudly that the greasy delight is ready to be served.

“We understand the campaign is a bit edgy, but to break out from the competition, you have to take risks; Our marketing department has never been afraid to do that.”
— Greg Barnes, SVP/Marketing
One Nevada Credit Union

“Bacon!” she beams with a pig-eating grin.

“Since when do we have time for bacon?” her son asks.

“There’s always time for bacon now,” the mom explains. She exudes the all sincerity of annoyingly saccharine Stepford wife.

“Here’s your lunch,” she says, handing the boy an oily paper bag loaded with fried lard. “And don’t forget, bacon burgers for dinner.”

“Isn’t that much bacon bad?” the boy wonders aloud.

“Yeah, like Bad ASS (bleep) Checking from One Nevada,” the mom replies. She’s unaware of the awkward and inappropriate segue she just made because she’s too busy obsessively stroking a strip of bacon. Never mind that, she needs to recount the product’s features: “We get free mobile check deposits, free text alerts, 43,000 free ATMs, and cash back every month!”

It’s hard to tell whether he thinks his mom has lost her mind or if he’s genuinely picking up on the excitement of the moment. Either way, he feels comfortable letting a low-grade swear word fly for the camera.

“Bad ass (bleep), mom,” the boy says.

Mom agrees. “Super bad ass (bleep), Timmy!”

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One Nevada’s decision to wrap its checking campaign with a bacon theme has at least some basis in logic. The credit union’s “BACON” account is an acronym that stands for “Bad A$$ Checking from One Nevada.” The product includes a suite of benefits such as Ca$h Perks (a cash back scheme), KeepTrack (a PFM tool) and free text alerts.

A teaser campaign launched on August 1, with digital billboards along major freeways and roadways in Las Vegas showing single pieces of bacon. Twitter exploded with tweets. The teasers resurfaced during “Shark Week” on Discovery, with TV spots showing a shark with bacon. Print teasers also ran in local newspapers showing only a single piece of bacon with the designated hashtag #baconcu.

A series of three commercials featuring a bacon-obsessed mom cooking up an abundance of bacon to her questioning family began airing on August 19. The bacon-crazy mother suddenly has time for bacon in the morning, making bacon sandwiches for her husband and bacon burgers for dinner for her son and his friend.

Other promotional mediums include a larger-than-life-sized bacon cutout where members visiting a branch can take a photo with the bacon and post to One Nevada’s social media sites for a chance to win $250, and a Facebook contest where those who “like” the One Nevada Facebook page can enter for a chance to win a new grill and a year supply of bacon.

The campaign includes a microsite dedicated to BACON.

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Now granted, Americans are more tolerant for coarse language than they were in years past. And Nevada is not known for its sense of etiquette and civility; it’s a rough place where people say and do adult things. However, there seems to still be an implicit line that TV shows can cross but advertisers can’t. Chalk it up to one more of America’s bizarre Puritanical hypocrisies, the truth is many U.S. consumers believe that “nice marketers don’t swear.”

Commenting on the YouTube video, Cindy Arnold described One Nevada’s spot as extremely offensive and thinks it should be pulled immediately.

“Every time I see and hear this commercial it makes me cringe,” Ms. Arnold complained on One Nevada’s YouTube channel. “As a single mother raising a son, I would never become a customer or suggest your company. Advertising leaves a lasting imprint on everyone. Unfortunately, for this company I know many businesses and individuals who I will share this advertisement with, and the response I got from the CEO, Brad Beal.”

The very next comment, another YouTube user who is clearly with the spirit of One Nevada’s commercial, tells Ms. Arnold quite simply to “shut the fuck up.” It’s either a wildly appropriate or inappropriate reply, depending on your point of view.

Keep in mind, these comments are all published publicly on an official credit union YouTube channel.

Now it’s probably safe to infer from Ms. Arnold’s comment that she sent a strongly worded letter to One Nevada’s CEO, Brad Beal. Based on Ms. Arnold’s tone, it sounds like Beal basically told her to stick it. So maybe Ms. Arnold will keep her word and share the commercial with dozens of friends (which would undoubtedly tickle the marketing team at One Nevada).

“We understand the campaign is a bit edgy, but to break out from the competition, you have to take risks,” Greg Barnes, SVP of marketing for One Nevada, told the CU Times. “Our marketing department has never been afraid to do that.”

You have to hand it to them. They aren’t cowards. They believe you have to make some noise if you are going to cut through today’s clutter, and they sticking to their guns. That takes cojones… big ones. Think what you may of One Nevada and their strategy, they’ve got guts.

As The Financial Brand has noted before, the old direct marketing maxim that says you should shoot for a 2% response rate is outmoded and ineffectual. These days, you should shoot for a “2% offense rate,” meaning that if 2% of your audience doesn’t have some sort of issue with your marketing then it probably isn’t edgy enough to get noticed in today’s world.

Key Takeaway: The best, most effective marketing is polarizing. Some people will love it, others will hate it. Also, whenever you run a teaser campaign, the payoff in phase two had better be buzz-worthy; if it’s a dud, you’re dead in the water.

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