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Pentagon Federal Credit Union Not Playing Games with Interactive Ads

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which represents military personnel in the U.S. Army and Air Force, plans to increase its use of interactive games and quizzes in its online advertising, as well as make greater use of direct mail associated with the campaigns, thanks to higher response rate.

The PFCU said credit card Internet sales have increased 200 percent and auto loan responses nearly doubled as a result of adding interactive games to its Web site. The games were designed by Rockville, MD-based interactive agency Adfluence Inc.

The credit union's campaigns rely on games and calculators to get members to interact with the Web site and spend more time on it.

Adfluence said that more than 20 percent of all visitors to the PFCU Web site at www.penfed.org either stayed to play the games on the site, or clicked through for more information about a product.

“If you get the person interacting with the marketing piece you're more likely to make the sale. Just like in direct mail in the offline world,” said Mary Lynn Stevens, PFCU's president of marketing. “Adfluence did that for our Web site and e-mail by making the messages interactive.”

PFCU uses a combination of direct mail, online and e-mail to promote its products and services. Whenever the credit union launches a campaign, it puts interactive ads on its Web site, sends a direct mail piece, and follows it with an e-mail. She also said the PFCU makes extensive use of viral marketing.

“We built a viral campaign to get new members,” Stevens said. “We sent an e-mail to members and hoped they'd send it on to their friends. I was expecting perhaps less than 5 percent of the people to respond. We ended up with 51 percent.”

She noted that the PFCU does not buy or rent lists, but rather relies on visitors to its Web site, viral marketing and, to some extent, the Department of Defense.

“We cannot take just anybody into our credit union who is interested in our rates,” Stevens said. “They have to qualify to join. The U.S. military needs to keep secrecy around its mailing lists.”

She said that because military personnel generally move every two or three years, the names on lists available from brokers are usually not useful to the PFCU. Also, many lists do not break down the names by branch of the military and rank.

“It's not cost effective for us to buy lists,” she said. “About 87 percent of the names end up getting thrown away because they have bad addresses. That's why we like viral e-mails.”

Stevens also noted that integrated campaigns work best for the credit union. Last fall, the PFCU sent a campaign to an undisclosed number of people pre-approved for home equity loans. The PFCU received 105 responses from the direct mail piece. That was followed up by an e-mail reminder, which garnered another 135 responses, she said.

According to Lee Campbell, the PFCU's e-commerce manager, viral e-mail works best for the credit union as an acquisition tool. He noted that in late November, just days before the annual Army-Navy football game, the PFCU sent out an e-mail including an interactive game featuring the Army mascot beating up the Navy mascot. Users could direct the blows using buttons imbedded in the game.

Campbell said the PFCU sent the game to 14,676 people. Within 24 hours, it was opened 3,744 times and received 1,237 click throughs. After 72 hours, the game was opened 5,246 times and received 1,671 click throughs.

“We did not track the actual number of new members acquired through that,” Campbell said. “It was more of a branding piece to get our name out there.”

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