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.
A reader says
There are many reasons to dislike Intelius — you cannot find a coverage description *anywhere* on their site, and some states basically don’t release criminal information online. You’d never know it from visiting Intelius. New York is basically one of them, so it’s ironic that they are running the ads in the New York Times.
That said, I would say it is appropriate to do a background check on a nanny. Your kids are vulnerable.
Richard Silverstein says
I should make clear that I agree with you that it is certainly appropriate to do background checks on nannies. I’ve learned as a parent that it’s pretty silly & pointless to criticize the choices and decision-making of other parents. Everyone has their own set of priorities & if you feel more secure having done one–by all means do it. It’s hard enough being a good parent secure in yr sense that you are doing everything you can for yr children. If this adds to yr comfort level, then by all means.
But what I object to is folks like Intelius preying on parent’s fears to make them feel that criminals will prey on them & their children if they DO NOT use Intelius’ services. That’s reprehensible marketing practice & they deserve some kind of “bad taste” award for it.
Charlie Davidson says
I am also against the way they advertise through fear, but background checks are also very important when getting nannies to watch our children.. it may sound paranoid but it’s better to be safe than sorry.. saw this video on youtube about a couple hiring a wanted convict.. well it is sad that i am also victim of this fear driven commercial tactic.. but nevertheless i would never sacrifice my childrens safety just because of my pride and ideals..