There’s a company out there that preys on the fears and anxieties of the vulnerable among us with advertising campaigns that gin up paranoia. Intelius.com‘s business is doing background checks on employees, tenants, etc. The company must not be satisfied with its current client base because it has started targetingd individual consumers as potential clients. The way it’s inducing them to become customers is with the most disgusting form of hysteric provocation.
Intelius has been running ads in the Business section of the NY Times for months. After visiting their site, I see they’re also running TV ads (thankfully I’ve not seen those). But you can see them on YouTube as well. Here is the fine print accompanying the NYT ad:
Sometimes checking references isn’t enough. Many people have a history that’s a matter of public record, and with an Intelius background check at Intelius.com it takes about 90 seconds to get all the information you need on anyone in question. And with this special offer, when you purchase one background check, you next one is free. Enter offer code “newspaper” at intelius.com to receive your free background check with purchase. Because you can’t always trust a resume, reference or even your gut.
I’d also suggest that “you can’t always trust” a marketing campaign either. Especially one founded on assumptions of the collective guilt and misdeeds of virtually everyone else in the world aside from oneself.
Hey, maybe I should look up the names of the company’s senior executives and run background checks on them. Whadaya think? Would it dredge up this awful ad campaign as charge number 1 on their “rap sheets?” If there’s a marketing award for most cynical, shameful campaign of the year it must be awarded to Intelius. Hands down.
I say all this as a parent who has happily used Craig’s List Seattle to find almost all of the nannies we’ve ever employed. Craig’s List doesn’t do background checks on their ad respondents and we don’t do them on our nanny candidates. An interview may be an imperfect way to judge someone’s character, but it’s worked fairly well for us so far. And even when the interview didn’t reveal flaws, a short amount of work experience allowed us to judge when someone wasn’t right for us.
Let me make clear that I don’t begrudge Intelius the right to provide its services to the American public. Background checks are certainly a useful tool in protecting personal and commercial interests. But I do take issue with this advertising. It’s deeply offensive. If your company needs to provoke fear and mistrust in the hearts of people to turn them into customers, what kind of business are you running?? Yes, I know the cynics among my readers will say: “Quite a profitable business.” History proves you can never go wrong overestimating the the gullibility and latent hysteria of the American consumer. But really, this is ridiculous.