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The Fed goes to the movies to help consumers -- and improve its image

November 25, 2009 |  3:06 pm

The Federal Reserve isn’t too popular these days, what with its failure to predict or prevent the recession and then with its involvement in the bailouts of last year and the dramatic expansion of its balance sheet.  Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has a bestselling book out called “End the Fed” and lawmakers are looking to cut back on the central bank’s power.

It sounds like the perfect time for an advertising campaign.

   The Fed has made a 45-second public service announcement to help consumers use their credit cards wisely. The ad will air before movie previews at theaters in 12 U.S. cities starting Friday and run through Dec. 3.

Over jazzy music, the announcer asks, "Want to use your credit card wisely? Here are some tips you can trust from the Federal Reserve." With the Fed logo featured prominently, the ad runs through tips, such as paying your bill on time and watching for changes in the terms of the account.

The Fed has been under fire for neglecting its consumer protection authority for years until the financial crisis hit -- particularly for taking 14 years to enact rules protecting consumers from unscrupulous mortgage lending. The Fed ran PSAs in April and September in movie theaters in California, Florida and other states devastated by the real estate crash telling consumers how to avoid foreclosure scams.   

    The timing of this latest ad is fortuitous. It comes as people flock to holiday movies. It could help improve the Fed's battered image as Congress weighs an overhaul of financial regulations. Plus, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will be on Capitol Hill on Dec. 3 for a hearing on his renomination for a second four-year term.

With anger running high over the Fed's failures, that event promises to be a Washington blockbuster.

   -- Jim Puzzanghera

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