Andy Cobb starred in TV commercials pitching health insurance for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida -- until he had a crisis of conscience.
"In some gigs, in rare cases, you're forced to come to terms with the moral content of your commercial," he told the Huffington Post. To disassociate himself from what he now calls "the worst product in American history," Cobb wrote and starred in a short video renouncing his former employer (see below).
He also asked other pitchmen to do the same.
"It's time for change," says Cobb in the video. "That's why I'm calling on leaders of the spokesjerk industry: the FreeCreditReport.com guy, the ShamWow dude, and Senator [Ben] Nelson, recipient of big money from insurance companies, to lead us, to walk away from their cash cows and tell the American people the truth."
The Huffington Post reached out to credit-report peddler Eric Violette, star of the famous commercials airing non-stop on cable television. Violette refused to comment on Cobb's call for a spokesjerk revolution. But in an email, he had this to say:
"Does this guy really equate health insurance with cleaning cloths and credit ratings? When making the decision about health care in the US, I hope the public will see that having access to health care is much more important than cloths and credit scores."
Yes, but what about the epic dishonesty of Violette's vids, whose makers have been repeatedly sanctioned by the government for false advertising? The free credit report offered simply isn't free -- you get the report after signing up for a $14.95 monthly service. Experian, the credit bureau that owns freecreditreport.com, profits in hard times from people worried about identity theft and their credit score.
The New York Times reported last week that 9 million people are spending a total of $650 million to $700 million a year for credit reporting services, with Experian making more than twice its three biggest competitors combined.
The Federal Trade Commission, whose more than $1 million in sanctions have utterly failed to stop the ads, has been so exasperated that it even made its own parody video.
The credit card reform bill signed into law by the president will curb the ads by requiring them to include the following statement: "This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law."
The truly free credit report is available at www.annualcreditreport.com.
ShamWow huckster Vince Shlomi could not be reached. Didn't seem to be much point in calling Sen. Ben Nelson's office. The Nebraska Democrat made the list because Cobb sees him obstructing health reform.
Cobb said he had his change of heart this year after participating in fundraisers for friends who went bankrupt and broke because they got sick -- even though they had insurance from Blue Cross.
Violette, for his part, is from Canada, where health insurance and credit reports are less of a problem.
Check out Cobb's video, which was produced by Robert Greenwald's BraveNewFilms as part of its Sick for Profit series:
Here are some of those catchy credit spots -- you've got to give Violette credit for being an appealing pitchman:
Here's the FTC's parody: