Friday, January 2, 2009

Advertising Against Your Own Product

Via Myglesias, the Times has this story on how colleges contract with credit card issuers, who pay for access to the student body. This passage amused me:
Jennifer Holsman, executive director of the alumni association at Arizona State, said the association tried to teach students about responsible uses of credit. "We work closely with Bank of America to provide educational seminars to students in terms of being able to get information about how to pay off credit cards, how not to keep balances," she said.
I don't know what you're supposed to think when you see some corporate entity like this that is by all appearances engaging in behavior that is antithetical to its own interests. If Bank of America really is trying to persuade its cardholders not to carry balances then they are being played for suckers, since they can only make money from their credit card business when their customers carry balances.

It reminds me of Philip Morris's anti-tobacco TV spots in the years following the tobacco settlement. It was sort of an interesting problem, wanting for PR purposes to run ads nominally discouraging use of their product, but that didn't actually have any negative impact on sales. Fortunately for them, they had a perfect model to follow in the government's anti-drug advertising of the 80's, which had been convincingly demonstrated ineffective. I imagine Bank of America drew from the same well in designing a campaign to discourage students from taking on credit card debt.

1 comment:

DU said...

"Clinical studies have proven that 4 out of 5 financial professionals recommend credit cards with high monthly fees in order to avoid carrying balances."