Like so many young Americans, Penny, ClearPoint's somewhat hapless heroine, is down on her luck in both love and money. She resolves to make changes that will put her on the road to financial stability and to find someone to settle down with. In spite of the tough love and encouragement offered by her sassy mouthed animated piggy bank sidekick, Penny finds herself on one disastrous date after another. But personal resolve and facing up to reality are what it takes to improve her situation, and set her up for financial and romantic success. ClearPoint is a national nonprofit with a mission to promote consumer health through financial education, and we look for ever more creative ways to fulfill it. Running a popular television ad campaign featuring the misadventures of Penny Pincher, ClearPoint's animated spokespiggy bank, and a wildly interactive money joke ecard campaign, taught us that humor and a good story visually told are the best ways to make tough messages accessible to consumers. So, we created Penny Bags a Buck, a four-part webisode series that we knew thousands of adults could relate to. Launched across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube around Valentine's Day, shortly after the release of a study that showed women with financial problems have a hard time finding a mate, the series and our Bag Some Bucks giveaway encouraged thousands of consumers to like, comment and share Penny's story, but most importantly, to think about (maybe for the first time) the impact of their own financial foibles on their happiness, and to talk to a credit counselor for free advice. We followed on the success of Penny with an episode of Debt Hard, a slapstick spoof about paying what you owe, and with another round of money joke ecards featuring Penny in spoof movie and TV show billboards (http://www.repaydebt.org/e-cards). We rounded out 2013 with the "Saving Bacon" song, featuring Penny trying increasingly ridiculous ways to keep more of her money. The goal of ClearPoint's social campaign was to raise consumer awareness about the importance of learning to manage money well. We met people where they "hang out", entertained them with (hopefully) funny, outrageous but "relatable" scenarios, and ultimately, offered them access to free education and counseling resources. It is harder to talk about money than it is God or sex. It is also difficult to see financial trouble on the horizon, or even when it is right under your nose. In recent years, many Americans have experienced hardships they never anticipated. Job loss, decreased property value, investments and savings wiped out; but millions could have avoided financial catastrophe with the help of education and planning. At ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, a national nonprofit, it's our mission to promote consumer health through financial education. We offer free budgeting, housing and credit counseling and many resources to help consumers manage their money better. "Money", "education" and "health". Great. Sounds like fun, right? The financial crisis and ensuing economic chaos hurt a lot of people, but after years of doom and gloom, consumers began to tune out. Lessons learned are in danger of being forgotten. We needed to find ways to engage consumers with our message, to caution them to be prudent without turning them off, and to show them how small changes can make a big difference. Social networks offer the perfect distraction, and while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and the like are sources of entertainment, they are platforms for authentic, personal communication. Social networks distribute information with credible endorsements of friends and family. We recognized that if we could tell a story that people could relate to, and if we could make them laugh doing it, our message would resonate. And, just maybe, people would begin thinking about their own situation. We took a multi-pronged approach. Following on a flight of national TV ads depicting our cracked and black-eyed piggy bank getting pummeled with credit cards by a squawking bird, staring up at tiles on a board that spelled nothing but bills, and chained to a barn, we began posting money joke ecards featuring Penny on Facebook pages with millions of followers. And leading up to Valentine's Day, we launched our romantic comedy webisodes with an online weekly giveaway with increasing amounts. Penny Bags a Buck took off. Money (or lack thereof) has has a big impact on human relationships. The launch of the series - which coincided with a study that showed women with financial problems have trouble finding a mate - inspired dozens of media interviews with ClearPoint counselors. Across social platforms, thousands offered Penny advice, related their own disastrous date experiences, and shared how they had conquered debt demons. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree when we asked if one should marry for love or money. The end result? Between January and October, thousands of consumers viewed, liked, commented, shared, retweeted, favorited and pinned our posts, ecards, videos, ebooks, budget recipes and news stories. Over 60K consumers each month visited repaydebt.org, where they learned how a free session with a credit counselor can set them on a new path. Thousands of people called us for free help. They created budgets, reduced their expenses and began setting goals and making plans for a secure future. Families found ways to stay in their homes. And millions of dollars in debt was paid down. Our message - that taking financial control of your life leads to good things in all areas, including romance - and doing it in an amusing way that resonated with folks who might not even recognize financial warning signs, helped many avoid financial catastrophe.
http://www.repaydebt.org/penny-bags-a-buck-episode-one-a-penny-saved http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIGVeO_kIB0 http://www.repaydebt.org/e-cards
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