Perspectives on “Feed the Pig"

BY BRIAN E. GLICKMAN

As a dues paying member of the AICPA, the New York State and Louisiana societies of CPAs, I am writing to express my total disgust with the “Feed the Pig” program for retirement planning (“ Inside AICPA ,” May 07, page 102). I have never found it to be appropriate, and after yesterday that has become completely clear.

Imagine my horror while watching TV with my wife and the following commercial came on. It showed a man in a suit with a pig head, seeming to shake down small businesses and individuals for money.

How in anyone’s imagination could an ad such as this ever have been approved by the Board of Trustees of the AICPA. The last time I saw a character with a pig head was on a recent “Dr. Who” episode. What does this ad do for the image of the AICPA?

The ad, along with the program, should be immediately withdrawn from promotion by the AICPA. It would seem that an organization such as ours could find a more appropriate mascot for the program.

In considering a replacement for “Feed the Pig,” perhaps a frog turning into a prince with a tag line: “You can create a princely sum by saving toward your retirement on a monthly basis.” It might become as popular as the GEICO ads and be a whole lot more appropriate for our organization.

I believe it is time for the AICPA to consider its true purpose.

Brian E. Glickman, CPA
Smithtown, N.Y.

AICPA’s reply: While we had hoped our written response to Mr. Glickman’s letter would have alleviated his reservations about our new campaign to help young Americans become more financially responsible, we appreciate the time he has put into expressing his opinion.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Ad Council launched the public service advertising (PSA) campaign called “Feed the Pig” to encourage 25- to 34-year-olds to take control of their personal finances. These Americans are accumulating debt rapidly and experiencing milestone life events, such as marriage and home purchases. They also face a far more uncertain retirement funding future than their parents.

“Feed the Pig” evokes the joy of saving more commonly found among young children depositing their first coins in a piggy bank. One element of this first national financial-literacy PSA campaign is the introduction of a new icon, Benjamin Bankes, an attention-grabbing version of the piggy bank.

Since World War II, the Ad Council has been the premier national force in public service advertising, creating campaigns that raise awareness and inspire action. All media production and placements are delivered pro bono and are strictly noncommercial. The Ad Council’s slogans—from Smokey Bear’s “Only you can prevent wildfires” to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”—have become part of the American culture. They also generate results. Their campaign encouraging Americans to buckle up increased seat belt usage since 1982 from 14% to 79%, saving more than 85,000 lives.

The AICPA/Ad Council campaign is creating a saving revolution through multimedia outreach, including radio, television, print, Internet and outdoor advertising. Consumers are directed to www.feedthepig.org, a Web site offering free tools to help them make positive changes.

While no campaign will please everyone or all demographics, we previously assured Mr. Glickman that this campaign included extensive research with diverse consumer and CPA audiences. The audiences quickly recalled the program URL and responded with interest in the campaign’s message. Researchers were impressed by the program’s ability to break through the clutter and communicate a critically needed message: Smart changes can add up to big savings.

“Feed the Pig” is a component of the AICPA’s highly regarded “360 Degrees of Financial Literacy,” www.360financialliteracy.org, a national effort to help Americans understand how financial issues affect them at different life stages. Since 2004, the program has won nine awards, including the American Society of Association Executives’ 2005 Summit Award, the highest honor for associations implementing innovative community-based programs.

The “Feed the Pig” campaign is receiving praise not only from the target audience but also from many organizations and legislators. Fifty state CPA societies are involved, developing innovative programs that extend the campaign to the grassroots level.

The campaign’s impressive successes include:

Eleven awards for the high quality of the PSAs, Web site and campaign materials such as the “Making of the PSAs” documentary (www.aicpa.org/financialliteracy/FeedThePig/behind_the_scenes.htm).

An astonishing 340 million media impressions in venues such as Newsweek, USA Today, SELF, and The Wall Street Journal Online.

More than 30,000 monthly visitors to www.feedthepig.org and 25,000 subscribers to weekly savings tip e-mails.

Web banners on numerous Web sites including MSNBC, iVillage, The New York Times, CNET, National Geographic and CondeNet.

Regional TV airings during such programs as Good Morning America, TODAY, Live With Regis and Kelly, Ellen, Dr. Phil, Oprah, Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Late Show With David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Dateline NBC and Saturday Night Live.

More than $10.5 million in total donated media value for the last quarter of 2006. (First quarter 2007 numbers will be available this month.)

Positive comments also are flooding in:

“I’m 32 and currently working to pay off my debt, live debt free, save and then give! This financial literacy campaign is very worthy and helpful to many!”

“Kudos on your simple and very effective TV ad (Not buying TV)....Thank you.”

“I hope this becomes an American revolution.…I hope that my generation can have these resources and stop letting money be something we fear, savings be something we never see and debt be something we are always running from.”

With results and comments like these, the “Feed the Pig” campaign is indeed well on its way to starting a savings revolution. The profession can be proud of getting young Americans on the path to financial freedom. We hope that in time, Mr. Glickman, too, will find that this campaign does exactly what it intends to do and will celebrate with us the high esteem that is accorded to CPAs as leaders of the financial literacy movement in America.

Carl George, CPA
Chair, National CPA Financial Literacy Commission

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