Ron Howard Gets Some Traction for Finance Reform

The Funny or Die video, directed by Ron Howard, that reunited “Saturday Night Live” presidents has generated more than 2.5 million hits — making it one of its most popular videos ever.

But is it having an impact?

The video landed on the same day as reports that plans for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency were being compromised into a plan to place a regulatory figure in the Federal Reserve. Critics see this as a watered down version of the original proposal because the Fed supports Wall Street, not consumers.

Heather Booth, executive director of Americans for Finance Reform, which partnered on the video, said that it has generated “thousands of calls to Congress,” and they have heard from a handful of congressional staffers. “This now bringing it to the public,” she said. “It is promoting it and involving people.”

She said that when they first partnered with Funny or Die — the background story is here  — she didn’t really “understand where this was going,” referring to the fusion of comedy and advocacy. “Now we do.”

“It is showing,” she added, “that Hollywood really cares about the rest of us.”

She added that while Americans for Finance Reform supports a consumer protection agency, “we are less focused on its being a standalone agency and more focused on its independence.”

Obviously, the whole idea is to get attention, particularly via viral video, which is no easy task in an atmosphere of relentless bombardment of messages. It’s no longer enough for an org to create a straightforward PSA, or one with a celebrity, or a comic bit. The threshold now is all three — a lobbying for laughs approach that also was recently used by MoveOn in two spots featuring Heather Graham pushing the public option in healthcare reform.

Howard introduced another video today for Funny or Die, this one featuring Heidi Montag talking about the horrors of having to pay for plastic surgery with her credit card. The subject is not health reform, but once again a call for finance reform, complete with Montag taking a bath with cardboard cutouts of Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby.


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