FTC ad parodies FCR.com ad – a Hit and a Miss

November 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Episodes

This ad is a funny satire, especially if you are familiar with the FreeCreditReport.com ads. But, I’m going to tell you why this may not be a good use of our tax dollars–in its intent.

First, it’s never a good idea to change behavior by copying another company’s advertising idea. This is why ads like Verizon’s “There’s a Map for that” or Droid’s “iDon’t” are tricky and often miss the mark. Many people won’t remember who the ad is for, or worse, they might assume that it is the Apple ad “There’s an App for that”. At least in their executions, they have a different look and feel and only the audio is similar.  By the way, the easy test for success is if this Verizon ad and/or the Droid ad is still running three months from now.  If it isn’t, I’d assume the reason for pulling them off the air is lack of efficacy.

With the AnnualCreditReport.com ad,  we have an ad that mirrors the original ad FreeCreditReport.com ad almost exactly. While most of the industry people [I mean us bloggers too] think this is great — for the mass consumer, this may only reinforce the original brand FreeCreditReport.com ad.

I have to ask the readers, have you ever seen an ad campaign where the parody ad got the higher brand awareness? I’m trying to think of one.  It’s challenging, because if the ad is worth a parody, it’s already a really sticky idea.

If the FTC wanted to avoid confusion with FreeCreditReport.com, it should have named the URL and product for AnnualCreditReport.com something else. Forget about the FTC for a minute. What I still can’t believe is that the other 2 credit bureaus with TrueCredit.com and Equifax.com websites, allowed a website name so close to their main competitors. Wouldn’t CreditReportOncePerYear.com would have been better from a competitive standpoint?  After all, this name sounds nothing like the other category sites, so there would have been less confusion.

This brings me to a bigger issue. Even if the FTC comes up with the best ad execution possible, it simply lacks the media budget to spend on getting this message seen and heard. FreeCreditReport.com is probably working with an annual marketing budget in excess of $100 MM.  This means that their jingle [or jingles] are rattling around in our heads, not instead of the FTC’s catchy lyrics.  The FTC isn’t going to put these videos on TV and instead hopes they go viral online.  Either way, I wouldn’t bet on a government agency to win a marketing war.

So, is the FTC campaign a failure?  No, incidentally, I think the FTC has a major victory in this.  By creating a landing page for these videos at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports, they have secured a second top spot in the Google search for “free credit report”.  The FTC now controls the #1, #3 and #4 listings.  That’s a big win, especially because  having a .gov domain probably draws an even higher click through rate than the .com domains.  Plus, they have a video thumbnail which drives even more of a clickthrough rate.

Sometimes you can miss the target and still get a victory.  The FTC’s goal for more usage of AnnualCreditReport.com might just happen.

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