Division C
Category 7 - Marketing/Promotional
SalterMitchell and FCCU – weLiveFIT! Challenge Webisodes

Research/Situation Analysis: By the end of 2008, there was no question that America was in a recession. The collapse of the housing market, the rise in foreclosures, the failure of major financial institutions, and the declines in consumer wealth gripped our country and impacted nearly every household. In Florida, state economists predicted the recession would linger through 2009. Florida Commerce Credit Union (FCCU) is the largest credit union in North Florida with seven branches and more than 35,000 members (household & business) in the Tallahassee area. FCCU wanted to retain and recruit members by differentiating itself from other financial institutions and establishing itself as a “full service financial solution” for local families. After conducting exploratory research (personal contacts/on-line sources/content analysis) of best practices in the credit union industry, FCCU decided to create the weLiveFIT! Challenge (WLF). WLF was based on FCCUs newly created program, which provides members with a free personal financial assessment, a trained finance coach, and a comprehensive action plan with steps to become FIT - Financially Independent Today. In the contest, seven local families would go through the program over a 10-month period to improve their personal finances. The most successful family would win $10,000. In November 2008, SalterMitchell (SM) began developing a video series as part of a PR campaign to promote WLF. Our approach tapped into the country’s obsession with reality TV by offering viewers a voyeuristic peek into the homes of families trying to overcome financial struggles with support from FCCU. While FCCU saw the reality series as a promotional tool to attract new members, SM saw it as an opportunity to engage the community in the lives of contest participants receiving help in a gloomy economy. 

Objectives: 1) Create an entertaining and high-quality reality series about the WLF families to drive sustained traffic to a contest website, securing at least 10,000 visitors during the challenge. 2) By the second Tuesday of each month during the contest, produce a 15-minute reality-style video segment to post on the contest website. 3) Expand viewership of the reality series beyond the contest website 4) Increase FCCU household memberships by 20%. 

Implementation: FCCU had never done a video project of this scale – a 10-episode video series promoting one of its premier services. SM didn’t want the videos to look like commercials. We wanted a series that was entertaining and educational, while also attracting fans who would pick their favorite WLF contestants and cheer them to victory. Each month, the seven WLF families publicly expose their financial struggles and the steps they took to improve their situations. All had racked up a lot of debt – one family had $69,000 in outstanding bills, another lived exclusively off a credit card with a $25,000 balance; most had little to no savings and poor credit scores. Because the videos were only 15 minutes long and aired monthly, commercial television was out of the question. Instead the 10 videos or “webisodes” would air each month on the WLF website. To help generate an online audience, each webisode was uploaded on You Tube and Vimeo then imbedded into the WLF website. Since we didn’t have a budget to hire videographers to follow the families 24-7 for 10 months, each family received a personal video camera to record their situations involving money. These home videos - such as taking budget-friendly vacations, shopping with cash-only, using a list in the grocery store, and cooking dinner at home instead of going out to eat – demonstrated the steps they were taking to get out of debt and save money. Because we couldn’t rely solely on home video, we scheduled various shoots based on the story lines. We also coordinated a monthly session where we videotaped all seven families consulting with their assigned FCCU financial coaches. With a production plan in place, SM hired a Tallahassee-based video crew with experience doing national reality-style shows to shoot the monthly series in HD format. To generate viewers we aired WLF promos on local media. To keep traffic coming to the WLF website between each new show, the families had to regularly blog. Website visitors could also access free WLF tools for themselves. SM boosted website traffic by coordinating webisode viewings at local events, including the Tallahassee Film Festival which attracted more than 3,000 people. We also got a webisode looped on all of the televisions in the electronics department at Sam’s Club on a Saturday. The following week, the WLF website received more than 2,000 visitors! Since the families were featured on billboards and in radio spots they had become local reality show celebrities. The last webisode revealed the $10,000 grand prize winner – a single mother of three who reduced her debt by $4,500, increased her saving by $30,000 and boosted her credit score from 662 to 758.

Evaluation: 1) The webisodes, shot in HD and featuring stylish graphics, generated a fan following that exceeded our goal website of generating 10,000 visitors to the contest website. By the end of the challenge, 21,824 visitors went to the site, 95,517 page views, and close to 200 hits the day a new webisode was posted 2) Each monthly production schedule - from determining the story lines, to videotaping the sessions, to scripting, to final production – was met and a new webisode was posted the second Tuesday of every month on the WLF website. 3) A WLF webisode was shown at 15 local events. They also played on the TVs in all seven FCCU branches.  4) FCCU’s household members increased from 25,000 to 32,000 by Jan 31, 2010, representing a 28% increase.

Budget: Webisode (total of 10) production $73,800; PR campaign $60,000; Paid Ads $53,654; Web design $2,500; Creative $14,800; Campaign total = $204, 754, representing a cost of $29.25 per new FCCU household member.