CapitalOne Offers Credit Card With No-Telemarketing Pledge

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Financial services firm CapitalOne Corp. is meeting initial success in marketing its new "hassle-free" credit card to consumers with the promise that they will not receive telemarketing calls as a result of their relationship with the company.

Those who successfully apply for and receive the credit card will not receive telemarketing calls from CapitalOne or any of its marketing partners. The television advertising campaign started in mid-October and is continuing indefinitely.

Diana Sun, spokeswoman at CapitalOne, said the no-telemarketing promise is just one part of an offer that includes a 9.9 percent APR and no fees for annual membership or balance transfers. The company tested the product in focus groups and in a limited-run television advertising trial before the rollout of the national broadcast and cable television advertising campaign.

"In this product, we brought three different pieces together in one bundle," Sun said. "It's a bundle people found very appealing."

The advertisements, designed by D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles Inc., Los Angeles, depict a man in his home office opening a direct-mail credit card offer. Upon opening the mailer, animated ghosts spew forth and haunt his house, at which point he begins complaining about rates, fees and telemarketing calls.

His wife tells him not to worry because they have a CapitalOne credit card, causing the ghosts to disappear. The spot is one of a line of CapitalOne commercials modeled on the same basic theme -- a CapitalOne credit card saves consumers from an attack by fantastic beings, such as pirates or Vikings -- but is the first to feature the no-telemarketing promise.

Sun declined to release early results from the campaign. However, she said CapitalOne is continuing full support to the campaign because of its early success, and the firm has no plans to cancel the ads.

CapitalOne has call centers in Florida, Texas, Virginia and Washington and conducts its own outbound calls for telemarketing and research, including calls for the purpose of bringing offers to current customers, according to Sun. The irony of a credit card marketer using consumer animosity toward telemarketers was not lost on some privacy experts.

"For the first time I'm aware of, a company that often depends on telemarketing is biting the hand that feeds it," said advertising and marketing attorney Douglas J. Wood, a senior partner at Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York.

This could be an example of marketers reacting to a poor economy by using a risky marketing strategy, Wood said. Another possibility, according to Robert Gellman, a privacy expert in Washington and a columnist for DM News, is that CapitalOne is making an effort to differentiate its own offer from the myriad of nearly similar offers that make up the credit card marketing industry.

"I don't know how seriously to take their offer," Gellman said. "But the perspective of some people will be that every little bit helps."

While CapitalOne's Hassle-Free card may be the first to offer no telemarketing to credit card customers, it is not the first example of marketers using privacy concerns to further their own ends. For example, Internet service provider EarthLink promises its customers a "spam-free Internet," and many companies, especially telecommunications providers, market call intercept and identification devices expressly for the purpose of stopping telemarketers.

"The fear of telemarketers is being perceived by more and more companies as a selling point," Gellman said.

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