Rent-A-Center Engages in Some Risqué Business

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Marketing isn't always funny business. But rent-to-own company Rent-A-Center is ditching the typical product pitch and relying on comedy to drive brand awareness in its new multimillion-dollar television campaign.

To promote the message that customers can acquire quality home items without a credit check, Rent-A-Center is running two national TV spots for the next 13 weeks.  The first commercial, done in partnership with marketing agency OCCAM, features a male shopper wearing too-short short-shorts and accusing a Rent-A-Center employee of checking him out. The employee explains that Rent-A-Center never checks anyone out because they don't require a credit check. The airing date of the second TV spot will be dependent on the performance of the first commercial. In addition to the television spot, Rent-A-Center is also promoting the campaign via radio, online, and social.

Rent-A-Center Director of Advertising Troy Minaldi says this humorous approach is new for the brand. He explains that the brand previously focused on promoting numerous Rent-A-Center benefits, such as prices and promotions, instead of homing in on a particular perk. And while Rent-A-Center generally attracts females between 25 to 54 years old who typically don't have the cash needed to purchase big-ticket items, Minaldi says the TV spot targets consumers who are unfamiliar with the brand.

“We're not hammering home a particular promotion that includes a particular price and product,” Minaldi says. “We thought we would go out with more of a benefit-driven message right now and just boil it down to what we do: great things for your home without the need for credit.”

To better gauge its level of brand awareness, Rent-A-Center conducts an awareness trial-and-usage study a few times a year and analyzes metrics such as ad recall.

“We're doing some before and after [analyzing] for this particular campaign to see if we've been able to move the needle in brand awareness, unaided recall of the Rent-A-Center brand name, [and] unaided recall of the actual ads themselves,” Minaldi says.

But not everyone may find Rent-A-Center's jokes to be funny. Minaldi says getting everyone on board with the campaign and ensuring that people were not offended was one of the greatest challenges. In fact, Minaldi says the online edition of the short- shorts spot is more “risqué” than the one featured on the air. To prepare its employees for any questions customers may have about the ad, Rent-A-Center distributed it to its more than 18,000 national employees before the commercial appeared on-air.

But is risqué business good business? Minaldi says Rent-A-Center is directing consumers to its online channels “to see the commercial that NBC wouldn't run.” The commercial, which was posted on the brand's official YouTube channel on June 21, currently has more than 5,400 views and more than 115 shares since being posted on the company's Facebook page on June 24. Minaldi says the public's response has generally been positive and he hopes the video goes viral.

“There were a few people who weren't sure if that this was the right way to go,” Minaldi admits. “I think that sometimes companies can be too set in their ways or too cautious. Sometimes it's fun to just let your hair down and have a little bit of fun.”

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