The rejection of the US government's $700bn plan to solve the financial crisis was down to a "failure of branding" in the way it was sold to the American people, according to the leaders of US ad agencies. The plan was voted out on Monday by the House of Representatives amid widespread public anger that it was saving the skins of the Wall Street firms who had caused the financial crisis in the first place.
The rejection triggered a dive in stockmarkets around the world and shocked the Bush administration, which is now trying to get an compromise version of the bill approved. It went through the Senate yesterday, but still has to be approved by the House on Friday to be approved by congress. Andrew Bennett, CEO of Euro RSCG, and Mary Perhach, global chief communications officer of Euro RSCG Worldwide, argue that no-one has taken the time to simplify the issue for the American people and that there was a branding failure to position the bailout as the solution most of the public wants.
Euro RSCG's view is backed by other advertising industry leaders including Bruce Haynes, managing partner of the National Media Group, an integrated marketing agency. They claim that the word "bailout" connotates failure and "Americans hate failure -- unless there is the promise of a second act where the hero finds redemption". "If it had been called a "rescue" from the beginning it would have been seen as heroic because it is a redemptive act, restoring things to their rightful order."
They added that Americans would more likely stay glued to their television screens to witness an act of heroism, such as a firefighter lifting a fallen young girl up from a deep hole or a pilot safely landing a disabled aeroplane, because they feel that they are part of these acts, sharing in their glory. Others have also criticised the way the administration floated the plan, including USC marketing professor Lars Perner, who told the LA Times: "The first step should have been to show outrage over the gross irregularities of financial institutions. That might have tipped the scales more in favour of the plan."
In a commentary Euro RSCG and NMG claimed: "Lessons for marketing beyond politics are abundant in the failure of the bailout. Consumers and voters find real value in making 'heroic' statements about themselves, and are eager to find ways to express their heroism not only in their political choices, but in their everyday product choices too. "From hybrid cars to free trade coffee, consumers are sending a message that they aren't just buying products, they are "voting" for the products that advance their world view."