Obama's Not the Only Savvy Marketer in D.C.

Border Patrol and FTC Invent, Adapt Musical Marketing Strategies

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When fans belatedly discovered that Chris Brown's hit "Forever" was paid for by Wrigley, it seemed like a novel -- and, to some, infuriating -- tactic for a marketer to burrow itself into pop culture.

Turns out, a federal agency had already adopted Wrigley's trick a couple years beforehand, and yet another has now deployed a similarly aggressive musical strategy to get its message across.

In 2006, the U.S. Border Patrol hired Elevacion, a boutique Hispanic shop in Washington, to craft a series of tunes describing the horrors of crossing the Mexican-American border, according to the Washington Post, which published a story about the campaign Sunday. "No Mas Cruces en la Frontera," as the campaign was called, was targeted at communities with many would-be immigrants and included a five-song CD of corridos called "Migra Corridos."

While ballads of death and heartbreak aren't unfamiliar in Mexico, few radio listeners have had any idea that some of them have been paid for by the U.S. government.

From the Post:

"When we approached the Mexican media, we approach it as a humanitarian campaign," said Pablo Izquierdo, VP of Elevacion. "We didn't tell them who was behind it because consumer research indicated that it wasn't going to be as well-received."

But, Izquierdo says, there's nothing fake about the songs. "There is no commercial message. It's all heartfelt, and it's all from the point of view of the people."

The songs had reportedly received so much airplay that listeners were clamoring for a retail copy of the album, which did not exist. Now, Border Patrol and its agency are readying a second disc for this May and are considering another aimed at Central American audiences.

Deaths along the border have been on the wane in the past four years, and the federal agency gives much of the credit to Elevacion, whose holisitic campaign included not just music but also billboards, newspaper and television ads.

Dueling jingles
While one arm of the federal government has been deploying new measures to get the word out, another has borrowed the musical strategy of a competitor to provide a counter-message.

Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission released its own music video viral campaign -- a set of singsongy spoofs to combat those freecreditreport.com ads that seem to be on every time you turn on the television.

The ads and their catchy tunes, which are created by Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency, are apparently resonating too well with consumers.

Despite the musical claims of some TV commercials, the only authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law is annualcreditreport.com, said the FTC. The agency has dubbed freecreditreport.com misleading because the reports are only available for free provided consumers cancel a trial membership within a week; otherwise they're billed $14.95 each month.

The FTC went as far as to say it encourages people to post its videos on their own websites or blogs, and provides tools to help them do so.

Whether the FTC's spoofs will prompt the marketer and its creative agency to change their tune in forthcoming ads remains to be seen. A Martin agency spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

[Washington Post]