WASHINGTON: Amid the crisis on Wall Street, The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sought to reassure consumers that their money is safe in the nation's banks. Coincidentally, a PSA campaign the FDIC had already been planning opened on September 15, the Monday that the stock market dropped more than 500 points and Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. The previous day, Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America. Next, insurer AIG was bailed out by the federal government.
The failure of IndyMac Bancorp and the FDIC's subsequent takeover of the bank in July sparked the campaign. Since then, the FDIC has been modifying the bank's mortgages to prevent foreclosures.
“More than anything, [the Wall Street crisis] gives the FDIC greater visibility,” said Andrew Gray, director of public affairs for the organization. “Due to the tremendous interest in the economy and deposit insurance, it heightens our responsibility to come out strongly with a direct and clear public education campaign.”
Best-selling author and personal finance guru Suze Orman donated her time to appear in the PSAs and on the FDIC's microsite, myFDICinsurance.gov, which also went live on September 15. Visitors were invited to enter their financial information into the Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) insurance calculator to determine what is covered by the FDIC.
The FDIC hired Porter Novelli in August to help with the effort. In the $1.5 million contract, PN is assisting with development, distribution, management, and tracking of the PSAs. The contract extends through March 31, 2009. Evaluation of the campaign will take place then.
“There's all kinds of scary news and it all becomes very personalized,” said Betsey Stephenson, SVP of consumer marketing at PN. “People are asking, ‘Is my money safe?'”
The PSA effort was created in about six weeks, with marketing to appear across a variety of media, including broadcast and print. All the PSA marketing will be via donated time and space.
Stories about the campaign appeared during the tumultuous week on Today, Anderson Cooper 360, and Larry King Live. Additional appearances and media outreach will be conducted in the coming weeks.
“This campaign is designed to be reassuring; to give confidence to consumers that as long as they're beneath the deposit insurance limits, they're 100% protected,” said Gray.
Consumers aren't the only ones looking for reassurance in the wake of the financial meltdown. Many agency-side PR pros told PRWeek that they were incredibly busy in the wake of the unfolding news.
“It's all about restoring confidence” in the market and in individual companies, said Paul Jensen, GM and head of WS' New York corporate practice. The firm advises a number of financial services companies, though he declined to name them.
“If there are questions out there about a company's financial health, now's not the time to hide,” Jensen added. “The old rules of transparency and consistency... still apply.”
In addition, but unrelated to the PSA campaign, Weber Shandwick is working on FDIC's 75th anniversary campaign, which is ongoing.
It's too soon to determine how the crisis will affect the agency business, but Lehman, one of the hardest hit institutions, let Edelman go just weeks prior to its bankruptcy.
According to Rich Myers, EVP in the financial communications practice at Edelman, as of August 30, it ceased working with Lehman's fixed income group. Edelman had been working to raise the visibility of some of the group's strategists in top-tier financial media.
“Each of our financial clients has different needs right now, depending on their exact line of business and position in the