Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Eric Violette is No Longer the 'FreeCreditReport.com' Guy!

Eric Violette's latest Blog on why is no longer the 'FreeCreditReport.com Guy'!

This is a good article/blog regarding what really happened with the FreeCreditReport.com commercials.  Eric Violette, the star is actually a talented, trained French-Canadian actor and singer with his own band!
By Charlotte Chevalier
by Charlotte Chevalier
25 Aug 2010 

Eric Violette and FCR: Behind the scene

The TRUTH behind the Freecreditreport.com commercials

Looks like the popular Freecreditreport.com band has lost its gig. There will be no more commercials featuring the trio lead by the slacker dude with the impish smile and perpetual credit woes.  Freecreditreport.com is offering varying and rather nonsensical explanations for their decision.



The commercials which began airing in 2007 were an immediate hit. The infectious, sing along jingles had Americans, from babies to grandmothers, memorizing the tunes. Country singers sang them at their concerts, crowds at sports events did too. We hardly needed prompting to launch into “They say a man should always dress for the job he wants….”



As interest in the recurring characters increased, lead singer Eric Violette was revealed. Rather than the American garage band frontman he symbolized, we found out he is a French Canadian actor/musician lip synching the pre-recorded jingles and his “band” was not really a band. Nevertheless the public continued to love the character and the commercials while increasingly complaining about the product. Consumers seethed when they discovered the product the band was promoting was not actually “F-R-E-E that spells free”. We loved the commercials despite the product they promoted.

Helped along by a story line that everyone could identify with—the young man who dreams big, but rarely hits the mark—the public anxiously waited for each new installment of the band’s continuing saga. Ultimately nine commercials were filmed.



Yet with all the success of the commercials, the back story was quite different. Complaints against Freecreditreport.com rose so much that the government stepped in to help consumers understand what they were signing onto when they accepted their “free” credit report. Using a video parody of the commercials to get out an accurate message, the FTC also began prosecuting Experian (owner of Freecreditreport.com) for their less than “truth in advertising” message. Federal laws were amended to protect consumers from unscrupulous vendors of credit reports which consumers were entitled by law to receive for free once a year anyway.



The other back story involved yet more deception on the part of Freecreditreport.com. Back in 2007 they hired the Martin Advertising Agency to produce the commercials. The agency was recently rated America’s top advertising agency and is the creative mastermind of other memorable commercials such as Geico’s gecko and cavemen. The Martin Agency chose to outsource the production of the commercials to Montreal. Flying under the radar of Canadian unions such as the actors' union ACTRA (AFTRA and SAG's Canadian affiliate), the Martin Agency was able to buy the silence of French Canadian production staff and actors’ agents. The unknown actors were paid a minimum day rate and an annual use buyout of a few hundred dollars. Consequently, the Martin Agency achieved its goal. The commercials were made for a fraction of the cost an American production would have demanded. This allowed them to spend their budget on air time and run the commercials ad infinitum.

While Violette became the face of Freecreditreport.com and the public’s interest in him increased, Freecreditreport.com took advantage of his popularity to again be less than forthright with the public. Not content to mislead consumers with the so-called free credit reports, nor content to produce commercials on the sly in Canada, they also impersonated Violette on their Freecreditreport.com websites and Facebook pages. Fans posted messages on these sites clearly thinking they were communicating directly with the “band” members. FCR even created a Facebook character named Roadie Jack who pretended to be the “band’s” roadie. When Jack’s Facebook friends (there were thousands) asked him about the band, Jack would invent bogus answers. Unsuspecting fans did not realize the sites were simply a marketing tool.



The impersonation continued in 2008 when Freecreditreport.com held a contest on Youtube. All you had to do was upload yourself singing one of the commercial songs. The grand prize was $15,000!! Ironically, this was more money than Freecreditreport.com had paid to all three “band” members for acting in the commercials. During the contest fans posted comments on the Youtube page believing the members of “FCR band” were hosting the contest. Again fans' presumptions about who they were communicating with were never corrected by the FCR.

Meanwhile Violette, who made only a few thousand dollars for the entire series of commercials, was still a struggling actor and musician trying to cope with his sudden pop icon status. Accosted by the American media, who naturally expected Violette to have reaped the financial rewards of his fame and the TV residuals, he graciously deflected their questions delving into how his new found “wealth” and “life changing” windfall had changed his life. Neither Freecreditreport.com nor the Martin Agency offered him assistance with public relations.  Freecreditreport.com watched nervously as the actor began doing more and more interviews and making appearances in the US. Their discomfort with his popularity was because they knew the more media queried the actor or scrutinized the background of the commercials the more likely the truth behind the commercials' productions and FCR's disingenuous manipulation of the public might be exposed.



Last year, that is just what happened. As production for the third set of commercials began in Montreal, ACTRA heard about it and angrily intervened. Production could continue, ACTRA stated, but only under ACTRA guidelines. That meant the Martin Agency would have to pay union rates and residuals to the actors. Consequently, these last commercials were aired far less often than their cheaper predecessors and now they've been pulled completely. 

Apparently, the Martin Agency intends to continue the “band” concept but with different actors. What are they going to do? Head off to a third world country? No, they're going to hire some inexperienced American band who is hungry for fame. That band will be exploited just as badly as Violette and his bandmates because that's what Freecreditreport.com does best--scam people. And in a few years, the decision to drop the original band will appear on the list of worst marketing decisions of the decade.



So ends the story of the Freecreditreport.com guy.


By Charlotte Chevalier


3 comments:

Maggie Lykins said...

I’m flattened for your blogs writings and blogs as well.
freecreditreport

John said...

Wish I could run into that POS on the street. I'd transfer all of my hate for that company from my fist to his face repeatedly.

John said...

Wish I could run into that POS on the street. I'd transfer all of my hate for that company from my fist to his face repeatedly.