Federal Trade Commission Makes Videos

According to the Ad Age blog Songs for Soap “the Federal Trade Commission released its own music video viral campaign — a set of singsongy spoofs to combat those freecreditreport.com ads that seem to be on every time you turn on the television.” While I am not going to argue about the use of the term viral, even though one cannot produce a viral video, it has become shorthand for a quirky video that marketers hope viewers share with everyone they have ever friended online, I will certainly question how successful this campaign will be.

The FTC hopes to inform people that freecreditreport.com is not free, but signs users up for a trial membership that is only free if you cancel within 14 days. There has been plenty written about staying away from the site, but the Feds are trying a different approach. The site they are singing about, annualcreditreport.com is the government-sponsored site where you can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus for one year.

Here’s a link to the other video on YouTube.

Below are the reasons this campaign will not succeed, and they don’t need much explanation.

1. The song is not very tuneful

2. The singer has no presence and actually appears to sneer while he is singing.

3. There is nothing clever or catchy that causes someone to want to share this video. While the songs are different in style, the sets and direction of the videos are similar enough to the originals that they feel like note-for-note cover versions with no personality, rather than spoofs.

4. While the videos mention other services that charge fees and their service is free, it is not clear that this is an ad for a government-sponsored site.

5. Experian, the credit bureau that owns freecreditreport.com, spent $70 million in advertising in 2007, and reportedly more in 2008.

6. These videos are posted on YouTube and nowhere else.

7. There is no presence of these videos on Digg, a site that helps content go viral.

8. Google results are poor for these videos, and includes a couple of blogs (now this one) and some news articles about it. The first page of Google results even includes a review video of how to use the site annualcreditreport.com.

9. The video is buried on the FTC website and does not appear anywhere on the site it is advertising.

10. YouTube’s related video feature encourages the viewer to watch the freecreditreport.com videos, which will remind everyone how much better they are and will lead viewers away from these videos rather than sharing them.

So yes, it is important for the Federal Trade Commission to let people know there is a free credit report web site and the one they are most familiar with is not actually free, but this is not a good way to do it. Their new videos are so similar that many consumers will just think they are watching another installment of the video series they know and like.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen