My first visit to Las Vegas 30 years ago, consisted of a two-night stay at a long-since razed flophouse called “The Lone Palm Motel,” and the $1.99 dinner buffet at Circus Circus -- which I’m told still exists in some form.

Last week marked my 24th visit to the city. This time, however, it was  business (the Fall Council meeting for the American Institute of CPAs), as opposed to a budget-constrained spring break spent driving in a 1964 Plymouth with a push-button transmission.

Lodging at the Wynn was a bit more high-end than the Lone Palm, but at least the former motel didn’t have the audacity to charge a non-conference rack rate of roughly $550 per night and still bill you $12 a day for Internet service or $25 a day for the gym. Of course, in 1976, Al Gore was probably busy developing the Internet for broad use, but I digress.

When I saw the hotel’s high-profile owner in the lobby, I was tempted to mention to him that I viewed this as a cheesy strong-arm tactic unworthy of an upscale hotel, but a phalanx of beefy security guards quickly convinced me otherwise.

Upon my check-in, a package awaited me in my room, which I quickly unwrapped to find an oversized piggy bank emblazoned with the phrase, “Feed the Pig.”

I was immediately struck by the thought that the item would not fit in my luggage on the return trip. I also knew that over the next two days, I would probably hear that phrase more than once.

As it turned out, I not only heard the phrase ad infinitum, I actually saw the pig.

The tagline, as I discovered, is part of a campaign that extends the institute’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program and was created to encourage the 25-34–year-old demographic to save -- hence the “Feed the Pig” allusion to stuffing the piggy bank.

The AICPA partnered with the Ad Council for the media blitz and with creative from the shop of Young & Rubicam, Chicago, unveiled a multi-pronged campaign that features grown-up pig aptly named Benjamin Bankes wagging his finger when those who are members of “Generation Debt,” as they have been tagged, are tempted to give in to expensive caprices such as plasma screen TVs or fancy clothes in lieu of putting the money away to build financial security.

The institute prefaced the unveiling by reeling off some disturbing statistics about negative savings rates in the U.S. and the alarming rise in credit-card debt.

Genuine problems, to be sure.

But I’m not sure I needed a cherubic-looking pig to convince me that the folks in that tier don’t save nearly as much as they should.

My wife has been a mortgage underwriter for over two decades and has regaled me with horror stories of business people, celebrities and athletes, some making as much as $800,000 per month, with literally nothing in the bank to show for it.

For good measure, the institute trotted out the mascot, played with swinish charm by character actor Austin Basis, for a photo opportunity with attendees. I passed, hoping instead, for a group a shot with the cast of the Jubilee revue at Bally’s, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The event and campaign drew a mixed response from those attendees who were kind enough to share their opinion. Some were skeptical, others optimistic, while one flatly stated that, “the pig just creeps me out.”


My thought is this: If the unorthodox campaign achieves even a partial success of past Ad Council efforts, then I say what the hell, feed the pig.

Believe me, it’s better to feed it now than feed at a $1.99 buffet later.

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