Some television commercials still have the power to shock – and do it without any hint of a wardrobe malfunction.
Like this one, for Experian, the agency that offers consumer credit monitoring.
Buzzing behind this ad is the country’s serious policy discussion about student loans and the debt students carry into life with them. The Times just editorialized about proposals in Washington, D.C. to make education’s burden bearable, and there’s substantive debate about the long-term cost-to-value of expensive educations – tuition, books, board.
Against that buzz, this ad shows a father standing in a campus bookstore handing a credit card to his thrilled-looking college-student daughter.
And here’s what happens next.
Voiceover: “When he agreed to co-sign for his daughter’s credit card, he thought it was the end of the conversation. She didn’t tell him that her college expenses were going up.”
But we're not talking about just tuition and books. The video shows the daughter shopping for clothes, and handing over the credit card in an electronics store.
Voiceover: “Or that she maxed out her card during spring break.”
Video of the daughter frolicking in a bikini on the deck of a yacht.
Voiceover: “When his satellite [TV] provider checked his credit, he found out his daughter didn’t pay her bills. But he’s not worried. Now he checks his credit report and score at Experian dot com, allowing him to keep track of his credit and take a break of his own.”
This ad is practically a green light for your offspring’s irresponsible use of credit. Of course, a for-profit credit reporting agency is not a family counseling service, but this message is completely off base.
Did the father wise up his daughter or put limits on her spending? No. Dear ol’ Dad, who thought giving his little girl a credit card was “the end of the conversation,” simply used Experian to help him keep better track of his daughter’s sprees, because she sure wasn’t telling.
The ad runs for 30 seconds; surely three or four seconds of that could have been spared for a wee hint that Experian does not endorse this carefree attitude toward credit -- something like the “please drink responsibly” footnote on liquor ads.
However that liquor ad admonition came about, I suspect that those who use credit reporting services tend to be careful users, and I'd like to think that Experian would want the upcoming adult generation to buy its services to handle credit maturely.
As for those monumental college loans, they may wind up looking like molehills compared to the mountain of credit card debt this girl looks to be piling up, a debt that even a BA and a good job could barely be able to erode.
Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes