WASHINGTON: Weber Shandwick emerged as the winner last week of a US Treasury campaign promoting the use of electronic funds transfer among recipients of federal payments. The effort is funded at up to $10 million a year for a maximum of five years.
The campaign will seek to persuade the small percentage of federal payees who still prefer to receive physical checks to switch over to Direct Deposit or a similar form of electronic transfer system. The federal government saves approximately 62 cents for every transaction it conducts electronically.
Research company Wirthlin Worldwide, under a separate contract, is now concluding extensive research into the behavioral and psychological barriers that prevent recipients from switching to direct deposit.
It is not yet clear whether the campaign will involve advertising in addition to traditional PR tactics. An initial meeting between representatives from Weber, the Treasury, and Wirthlin is set for later this month. A strategy will not be determined for several weeks, said Alvina McHale, legislative and public affairs director for the Treasury's Financial Management Service, but nothing yet has been ruled in or out.
"That will be something that we will determine over the next several months," she said. "So much rests on how [Weber] decides to use the research."
One thing that is certain, however, is the Treasury's interest in framing the issue not just in terms of economic sense, but also in security.
"We think the electronic world is clearly a safer, more reliable, more secure way for people to get their payments," said McHale. Ironically, research shows that a sense of security is one of the leading factors stopping payees from switching to electronic transfers.
Weber has experience moving people to Direct Deposit. In the late '90s, it ran a similar campaign for a coalition of private and public interests looking to move all manner of payees to electronic funds transfer.