Supportkids.com recently hired GSD&M, Austin, Texas, to create the ad effort, which will include national TV. While still under development, the campaign is likely to include toll-free numbers and the Web site address to direct potential customers.
An important aim of the GSD&M effort will be to rebrand the group. Since 1991, and until just a few months ago, the organization was known as Child Support Enforcement.
The name change is "a natural reflection over the increasing volume of our business over the Web," said a spokeswoman for Supportkids.com. The advertising will "help us brand a new business model," she added.
In beginning to shift its business to the Internet, Supportkids.com will add new services on its site, such as a referral network of lawyers in each state.
Supportkids.com has thrived in a time of overworked and understaffed government agencies that commonly handle 1,000 cases or more at one time; the group's agents handle only about 300 cases. Other private organizations, such as collectchildsupport.com and finddad.com, provide some competition. However, the national ad campaign planned by Supportkids.com will make it one of the most visible.
Supportkids.com was founded in '91 by Richard "Casey" Hoffman, a former Texas assistant attorney general in charge of that state's child support enforcement program.
The group is selective about its customers. It takes on only those who have a court-ordered judgment, are not on welfare and are owed more than $5,000.
Those limitations and the stiff fee the group charges parents-34% of the money owed by the deadbeat parent-have raised eyebrows and more than a few objections from child welfare groups.
However, the parents who benefit and other supporters defend its fee structure.
"Some people say it sounds like a lot of money. But remember the clients aren't looking at the difference between 66% and 100% of their money. They're looking at the difference between 66% and 0%," said a spokesman at GSD&M. "Their customers are usually people who have been in the system a long time with no