US Government Advertises Money

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - In what may give new meaning to the phrase "advertising dollar," the federal government is engaged in an unprecedented media blitz to advertise money.

The advertising campaign involves national television, radio, print, public transit and Internet media to publicize the new Golden Dollar featuring Sacagewea, the Indian guide for the Lewis & Clark expedition.

The ads feature a digitally composed face of George Washington acting as the coin's "spokesman."

The United States Mint hired award-winning director Bob Giraldi to produce the spots. The New York-based animation house, Charlex, digitally transmitted Washington's head onto an actor's body, making the first president a hip pitchman for the new coinage.

US Mint officials -- using focus group research -- found that consumers consider the ads to be clever, upbeat and appealing. The ad campaign includes more than 1,600 spots that will air over 11 weeks.

Citing "lessons learned" from the failure of the Susan B Anthony Dollar that was introduced in 1979, US Mint spokesman Michael White said the federal agency is taking a commercial approach with the new Golden Dollar. "What we've chosen to do is to introduce this coin like a corporation would introduce a commercial product," White said.

White insists that the $40 million ad campaign is not paid for with taxpayer money. "It comes out of the profit of the coin," White said, citing the cost of making every coin is 12 cents, leaving the Mint a "profit" of 88 cents.

Asked how the agency could make a profit by producing money, White said the profit is calculated by the difference between the face value of the coin and the manufacturing costs.

According to White, the coins are produced at a cost of 12 cents and sold to the US Treasury for one dollar. That process, in conceptual terms, is called "seigniorage."

The television ad buy alone is designed to reach 92 percent of the target market -- urban and suburban-dwelling adults, ages 18 to 49 -- an average of 15 times, according to Mint officials.

Urban and suburban adults are considered the target market because usage of the new coin is expected to be especially heavy in areas where mass transit and other coin-operated businesses are prevalent.

In ads aimed at this target market, George Washington is shown using the Golden Dollar at a vending machine, a subway station turnstile, buying breakfast at a coffee shop and driving through a toll booth.

Mint officials contend that initial public response to the Golden Dollar has been "extraordinarily favorable," unlike the cool reception given to the Susan B Anthony dollar when it debuted in the late 1970s.

The Susan B Anthony dollar never caught on with consumers, many of whom confused it with the similar-sized quarter.

Since the Golden Dollar's introduction in late January, more than 200 million of them have been put into circulation. By the end of April, at least 500 million Golden Dollars will be in circulation, matching in only 14 weeks the total demand for the Susan B Anthony Dollar in its first 14 years.

American sculptor Glenna Goodacre designed the front of the Golden Dollar featuring the image of Sacagawea, a young Shoshone woman who assisted Lewis and Clark on their journey westward from the Great Northern Plains to the Pacific.

The reverse side of the Golden Dollar features a soaring eagle designed by US Mint sculptor Thomas Rogers. The reverse of the coin also features 17 stars representing each of the states existing at the time of Lewis and Clark's expedition.

Federal Reserve Banks started releasing the new Golden Dollar to commercial banks on January 26, 2000. About 3,000 Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs were allowed to use the Golden Dollar in routine change making as of January 30th.

Demand for the Golden Dollar remains so strong that the Mint has doubled production to 5 million Golden Dollars a day, or about 150 million a month.