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I Don’t Understand How You Expect Me to Frequent Your Business if You Don’t Plan on Featuring an Unknown Indie Band in Your Commercial

September 19, 2010

Earlier this year — and I’m sure this is no big news to you, since you undoubtedly follow all the latest news surrounding the website FreeCreditReport.com and its fake-struggling band led by lip-syncing French Canadian Eric Violette. Since you do, of course, you already know that the “band” which had long touted the assets of the free credit report-granting website was given the axe in May, likely oweing largely to the fact that that earlier this year, the scam was revealed and it suddenly semed like every media outlet in the country was penning a feature on how music in the spot does not feature Violette’s actual voice and English, in fact, isn’t even Violette’s primary language (one of the band’s longtime lip-syncing criticisms was of how Violette’s on-screen pronunciations didn’t seem to sync up to the way Americans say certain phrases and words).

What also didn’t help was the fact that the Federal Trade Commission, last year, also took aim at the company, releasing its own series of fake-band helmed commercials warning against using freecreditreport.com and other sites of its ilk. So it clearly was time for the entire endeavor, helmed by global credit reporting firm Experian, to cut its losses and go back to the well.

The well includes a new site and a whole new (well, semi-new) gimmick. Gone is FreeCreditReport.com, which advertisers The Martin Agency had worked so long and hard to give word-of-mouth toward, and in its place was a new website: FreeCreditScore.com. Also gone are the fake French-Canadian lip-syncers and in their place, an actual competition wherein actual bands can become the new face of FreeCreditReport….er, FreeCreditScore.com.

Again, this is no news to you, I’m sure, as you’ve been following these proceedings and this contest for quite some time. As a result, you know of the four finalists for this competition — L.A.-based emo-esque Evolove, geekcore New York rockers I Love Monsters, Chicago prog-electro-rockers The Poets Dance and popular Detroit popsters The Victorious Secrets. It’s interesting how online voting led to four such drastically musically diverse, geographically disparate bands from four of our nation’s largest and most demographically representative cities. An equal number of fans of many varying tastes and locales must have religiously voted to yield this set of finalists — a better representative group couldn’t have been selected if they had been chosen by a marketing group itself!

Regardless, FreeCreditScore.com found its winner in The Victorious Secrets, which it launched  in a commercial airing on last week’s MTV Video Music Awards. And while we do, legitimately, congratulate the Victorious Secrets — because, assuming the contest was on the up-and-up in the first place, it is always nice to see a struggling band get its chance in the spotlight and TBTS supports that — the whole ad gimmick is what’s really rather ridiculous.

The FreeCreditReport.com deal simply wore us down. I’m not sure there was anyone, ever, who really gelled to those spots in the campaign’s infancy — they were hokey, they reeked of meticulous market engineering and weren’t particuloarly musically sound to begin with. After a while, however, it became clear that FreeCreditReport wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was their ridiculous band of geeky, disheveled, twenty-something music-makers, and things sort of began to fall into place and give FreeCreditReport’s fictional band some sort of fifteen minutes of fame.

The same type of schtick was readily repeated by EducationConnection.com, whose Waitresses-esque jingle featured a young girl looking for the right college for her particular skill set and which spawned, for the website, a contest to find the next voice of EducationConnection.com (many of those particular entries are both hilariously awful and on YouTube, including this straight(?) rip-off, a hip-hop version and this emo rendition, among others).

Perhaps we’re underestimating the power of the “this band is soooo cool!” trick — after all, if you can convince just three or four people to google the band name (often displayed, early MTV-video-style, in the bottom left corner of the spot), you can possibly have a chance of convincing those three or four people that the band really exists or is on the rise, and if you can do that, you can convince them that the advertisers shelled out a lot of money to hire said on-the-rise band. And if they believe that, your product has more credibility.

Maybe I’m being too cynical. I’m not a patron of the Detroit club rock scene, and I’ve never seen The Victorious Secrets play live. Maybe they will parlay their commercial gig into full-on fame. Or maybe they’ll keep cashing somewhat lucrative checks from RealCreditScore.com for their portrayals of economically unsound slackers trying to get a home loan or take their girlfriends out to dinner. Good luck to those guys, and I actually do mean that. I guess we’ll see what happens. What’s certain, however, is that the “we’re a hip company and we’re so hip we’re bringing you cool new bands you haven’t even heard of yet — so visit this website!” gimmick isn’t going anywhere anytime, especially in the age of social media where it’s more possible than ever for a clever marketing group to saturate so many technological avenues and almost instantly “create” a band and its fame. Whether we choose to buy into it depends on our own gullibility.

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