With more than 70,000 spots aired on network and cable channels in 2009, the FreeCreditReport.com band-and its catchy songs about bad jobs, relationships and credit, sung from roller coasters and Renaissance fairs-is arguably the jingle king of America.
But not for long. The scruffy blond and his nameless crew-cast by an ad agency specifically to sing the FreeCreditReport.com jingles-are passing the torch to a real band. On Aug. 9, Detroit quintet the Victorious Secrets won a nationwide search to be the spokes-band for FreeCreditScore.com, a new brand from credit-monitoring company Experian, parent company of FreeCreditReport.com. The group's first ad will air Sept. 12 during the MTV Video Music Awards, where the act will make a red-carpet appearance.
The original campaign, conceived by the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., was built upon spreading a message "about personal financial literacy, tied to pop music and pop culture," says Chris Moloney, senior VP/chief marketing officer for the U.S. consumer direct-business unit of Experian. It succeeded, Moloney says, because it took on a life of its own in the social media space-the band had thousands of fans on Facebook, and tributes and parodies proliferated on YouTube.
But after three years, "there were people who were tired of the band," Moloney says. As the company was preparing to launch a new brand focused on offering credit scores rather than full reports, he says, it realized a high-profile search for a new act could engage everyone-"those who loved the band, and those who wanted a new one."
The search was conducted with live competitions in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, followed by an open-entry period online, where bands could submit their version of a prewritten jingle. The Victorious Secrets won the online portion of the contest, becoming one of four finalists announced during Major League Baseball's All Star Game in July, after which the public could vote. With its win, the band was awarded $10,000 and a full set of gear-and because the members will appear in commercials, the Victorious Secrets will be paid under Screen Actors Guild guidelines.
The Detroit group was founded in March by five longtime collaborators in order to enter a local rock contest, which they won. "We submitted [to FreeCreditScore.com] on a whim to see if we could keep this hitting streak alive," guitarist Mike Mulliniks says. "We credit Detroit for the win, because it showed up and voted and put us over the top."
While many bands might be wary about being labeled "that FreeCreditScore.com band," bassist Bryon Rossi says they aren't concerned. "[Experian] has been so supportive of us as a band and maintaining our identity, reminding us that we got to this point for being who we are," he says. Rossi adds that the Victorious Secrets were halfway through recording a full-length album when they won, and they plan to finish it during the 18 months they're contracted with Experian.
"We wanted a real band who were very talented musicians, but who could take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the commercials in a way that could tell a story and be embraced by a wide population," Moloney says. He adds that the Victorious Secrets' contest submission "was very jazz meets pop, which they captured well . . . when I hear them I kind of hear Ben Folds, and that style has universal appeal."
All of the jingles, like those for FreeCreditReport.com, will be written by the Martin Agency's Dave Muhlenfeld, and Experian will own the publishing and recording copyrights. The songs will also be used in a radio campaign and made into ringtones.
The Victorious Secrets are still waiting to film their ads, but "I'm sure they will be situational and will definitely showcase our personality as a band," Rossi says. Moloney hints that unlike the previous campaign where the band members sang about their own financial woes, the new ads will have the group telling other people's stories. The emphasis will be on the importance of regular credit checks; one spot includes advice from an older man to a younger one.
"Another is largely about how you can't always get what you want if your credit score's not good," Moloney says. "We won't literally borrow lines from the Rolling Stones, though, so they don't have to worry about that."