Guide To Selling Out
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Columns
So here we have arrived at last, my brave warriors, at an examination of the quintessential sellout, as embodied by the freecreditscore.com band.
Now, you may be shaking your head and thinking, "Oh no, Hannah, our proud leader, you have erred: It's freecreditreport.com, not freecreditscore.com!" To which I reply: Oh no no no, little pomegranates, things have changed. I will weave you the story.
The old band, promoting freecreditreport.com, was 100 percent fake. Posing as scruffy twenty-somethings stuck in crappy jobs, these fellows sang of the woes of falling prey to ignorance about one's credit score. The commercials were funny and, dare I say it, meta.
There they were, a group of actors, who probably wanted to be in M. Night Shyamalan movies but ended up in a commercial for a free credit checking website that's not actually free. (Sorry to shit on your fire, but these sites actually run a subscription service - the only actual FTC-sanctioned place you can receive a free credit score is annualcreditreport.com.)
The website is run by Experian, a credit bureau based in Irvine. Senior VP and chief marketing officer of Experian Chris X. Moloney explained to brandweek.com that the reason for a recent switch to a new brand, freecreditscore.com, was not due to trouble with the FTC: "We're diversifying our products and we haven't eliminated a product because of regulatory reasons," he said, presumably before lighting a cigar and fondling his pet chinchilla.
So there's a new brand, and with it, a new band. An actual band. After a nationwide search, Detroit rock band the Victorious Secrets clinched the prize of being freecreditscore.com's official band and a bunch of corporate tools.
If I were a reporter, and if this were a news story, I would give you a thorough background of this band, and I'd get to be on the front page with an impressive headline. But here we are, children of the night, tucked away in the middle pages of this paper, lost forever, like old spoons dropped behind the refrigerator by a mother who had something else on her mind.
But the point is, freecreditwhateveritisnow.com is not just using rock and roll to push their brand, they are trying to equate their band with rock itself. Because nothing says rock-and-roll like personal financial responsibility. As Mick Jagger once sang, "I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes / I have to turn my head until I get my taxes done."
We have one of two scenarios happening here: Art is moving towards advertising, with greater and greater control by corporations, a process that I will term in-corporation. Or alternatively, we have advertising moving towards art.
Neither of these cases can fully represent the situation - because both are happening together. And, my cumbersome ducks, this new commercial is pretty good. I might not even mute it if I saw it on TV. It has a catchy tune. The band seems (and seeming is what is important) to be genuine, charming, funny.
Would I tap the bassist? Yes. Yes, I probably would.
The ads get better, the art gets worse. But are we really mourning the loss of a little band from Detroit?
Notreallyfreecreditscore.com is trying to subsume itself entirely in the world of art, but like a fat kid trying to hide in the shallow end, the jelly rolls of insincerity will inevitably float to the surface and give the game away. After a dozen or so weeks, I'm not yet convinced that if the intent is to plug a product, you can call something art.
I have one more column in which to change my mind.
Spoon behind the refrigerator with Hannah at [email protected]
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