F-R-E-E That Spells Ripoff
A word to the Fountains of Wayne-like indie dudes singing about how their lives are miserable because they didn't join up with FreeCreditReport.com: we're on to you.
As you may know (but obviously not enough do), Free Credit Report is a bait-and-switch campaign from the private credit bureau Experian. The omnipresent ad campaign offers the debt-ridden a "free" credit report service to help them regain good credit, barely mentioning that it only comes with enrollment in the never-explained "Triple Advantage" program. Also never explained is that, thanks to 2005 federal law, anyone can get an actual free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
MSNBC.com's Red Tape Chronicles gave a definitive take down of the scam in 2006, one year after Experian was "slapped on the wrist by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading consumers." Reporter Bob Sullivan said, "it’s amazing that FreeCreditReport [dot] com is allowed to continue operating." Perhaps it's not so amazing that MSNBC, like several other cable channels, continues to air those misleading Free Credit Report ads, ad naseum.
I'd love to see a study showing the relationship between the ads on broadcast or cable news, and the stories done on those companies. Actually I don't think I need to see that, I can figure it out for myself. Hence the ads for Lockheed Martin and Boeing on Meet the Press. I am rarely in the market for a sophisticated weapons system, but that's not the point of the advertising.
UPDATE: I guess Smart Car doesn't advertise on MSNBC. I just saw a news story on them explaining that the low-emission vehicle got a 5 out of 5 on side impact tests but did have a problem with the side door unlatching(!) So it got a perfect score, but the lede was that Smart Cars are unreliable and dangerous. When was the last time you saw crash test reports about Pontiacs, Fords, Mitsubishis, or indeed any other vehicle? What you see on the news includes a whole host of different factors, including laziness and whether you have enough video for the story. But certainly, not pissing off advertisers and pissing off their competitors plays a role.