Advertising new money

Why is the government spending $32 million to advertise the appearance of the new $20 bill? Rob Walker of Slate raises that question.

I don't know about you, but after seeing these ads, I'd be willing to pay up to $20 for one of those hip new bills.

Walker eventually comes to the conclusion that the purpose of the ads is to raise awareness about the changed appearance.

In fairness, while the campaign seems as though it seeks to sell money?a pointless exercise?it's really designed to put everyone on notice that a change in currency is afoot: The new bill has some different color and design elements (to deter counterfeiters), but it's real, so don't freak out. Such messages are not unprecedented: The introduction of the euro a few years back was also accompanied by a massive "awareness" campaign. Continental promoters wanted 90 percent of the population of 12 countries to have seen 30-second TV spots at least twice.

I guess that makes sense. However, to me it seems that the commercials don't just want you to know that there are new $20 bills out there. Showing a guy spinning a bill on his finger and rolling it on his shoulders, along with a woman being turned on by the sexy new bill goes a step beyond simple awareness raising and into the realm of merchandising.

Any thoughts?

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In our lifetimes the dollar

In our lifetimes the dollar will be reduced to a worthless piece of paper. By making new money look hip or sexy, the government is trying to forestall that event. They're trying to instill or renew confidence in the use of the medium. Who would think of using anything else?

because it's not their

because it's not their money.

just a hunch.

A simple press release to

A simple press release to the news wires would've worked just as well. The word of mouth alone would've been enough to spread the information, rather than spend $32 million on an advertising campaign.

The thing is, it doesn't

The thing is, it doesn't matter to them if it costs $32 million or $100 million to advertise. Because it's a fiat currency, they can just print more.

Hmm, I haven't seen the bill

Hmm, I haven't seen the bill "in real life." When I first heard of the change and the colors, my sci-fi imagination went wild and I imagined a brilliantly-colored, very modern-looking paper with a completely design. The reality is pretty lackluster, from the pics I've seen.

I've heard that when the "new" $100s came out a while back, there were plenty of problems with retail workers (for instance) not accepting the bill (believe it... or not). This probably cost the economy money overall. Did it cost it more than $32M?

I may NEVER use or own a "new" $20. That's because I don't use folding or jingling currency, ever. I haven't held bills this year at all, except when I sold books (deposited the same day) and when I payed the toll in Kansas (my mother's dollar).

For the reasons that Kevin

For the reasons that Kevin noted, it probably is worth the advertising campaign, just to get people to accept it AS money, rather than as a poor counterfeit of older money.

This can work, though, because the new $20 is exactly the same as the old $20 except in color and presentation (i.e. its still $20 in the same physical form for use).

Its more problematic when you get multimillion dollar ad campaigns trying to create "new" money, or at least new forms of money, such as the once-a-generation attempt to introduce dollar coins. People don't want medieval-type coins in an age where paper currency has been accepted. After all, wallets rule where coin-purses have faded away, so there's a bit of path dependency going on, ne?

No matter how much is spent

No matter how much is spent on an ad campaign it won't change the fact that the new $20 is plain ugly. I'm all for innovative counterfeit-prevention features, but did they have to make such a poor design? The peach bloches and yellow numbers make the bill look like it has malaria.