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Federal Reserve tries theater ads to burnish its image

Spots urging shoppers to use their credit cards wisely will be shown on big screens in 12 U.S. cities. The central bank has long been accused of neglecting its consumer protection duties.

November 26, 2009|By Jim Puzzanghera

Reporting from Washington — The Federal Reserve isn't too popular these days, what with its failure to predict or prevent the financial crisis and recession, not to mention its involvement in last year's bailouts. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has a bestselling book out called "End the Fed," and some lawmakers are looking to cut back the central bank's power.

It sounds like a perfect time for an ad campaign.

The Fed has made a 45-second public service announcement to help consumers use their credit cards wisely. The spot will run before movie previews at theaters in 12 U.S. cities, including Long Beach, from Friday 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 offers suggestions 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 -- particularly for taking 14 years to enact rules protecting consumers from unscrupulous mortgage lending.

In April and September, the Fed ran public-service ads in cinemas in California, Florida and other states devastated by the housing crash advising viewers how to avoid foreclosure scams.

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

With sentiment against the Fed running high, that event promises to be a Washington blockbuster.

jim.puzzanghera@

latimes.com

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