One might ask what is so wrong with the present $20 bill. The gaunt face of America's dour seventh president, Andrew Jackson, looks out from one side, and an engraving of the White House, and the words "In God We Trust", grace the other. The clean lines and the black and green colours combine to give a simple yet stylish finish.
But from a week on Thursday, America is to get a new $20 bill, with peach and blue hues and a raft of fresh security measures.
To prepare the American people, the federal government is spending more than $33m (£20m) to market the note and has hired a public relations firm, a product placement firm and a Hollywood talent agency to boost the bill's image.
Although it might seem an unnecessary expense, given that people will have little option but to use the note, the millions being spent by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will ensure the bill and its makeover gets mentioned on primetime television shows, including Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Jeopardy and The West Wing. It has already been name-checked by some of America's leading comedians, including David Letterman.
"We knew we could not rely on public service announcements and new media alone to get the depth of information out about the bill's new design and security features," said the bureau's director, Thomas Ferguson. "We needed to look at different avenues. And we knew from our research that people get a lot of their information from entertainment and television."
In many ways the bill will be similar to the present $20 note and will bear the face of President Jackson. Ironically enough, he fought lengthy battles with what was then the Bank of the United States during his second term as President in the early 1830s. But the new bill will be the first since 1905 to contain colours other than green and black. The Secret Service, which is officially responsible for preventing counterfeiting, says the peach and blue shadings of the new $20 bill will make it more difficult for forgers to copy.
The government estimates that one out of every 10,000 bills is counterfeit. That may be a relatively low percentage, but it means that more than $44m in circulation is fake. A redesigned $50, featuring Ulysses Grant, and a new $100, featuring Benjamin Franklin, will follow in 2004 and 2005.
The Secret Service said new technology was helping counterfeiters make more convincing copies more easily. "The traditional methods required a high degree of skill," a spokeswoman told The New York Times. We see that diminishing."
A plastic thread embedded in the paper of the note, ink that changes colours when tilted in the light and more microprinting are among the security measures included in the new bill.
But it is the advertising that is getting most attention. The public relations firm William Morris Agency and the product placement company Davie-Brown Entertainment have been hired to ensure the new $20 gets high-profile mentions on television.
Next week the host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Meredith Vieira, will explain the new bill to viewers, and there will be a category of questions about the note on the quiz showJeopardy.
The approach may be a bargain. "We can get millions of dollars of advertising for the price of a flat fee to William Morris," said Richard Mintz, of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, the lead agency hired by the government.Reuse content