Squid Game Inspired an App to Drop 10,000 of These Cards in New York and Miami

Using the hit show's imagery, Relief and agency Wunder aim to reach Americans in debt

The business card-sized ads reference the enigmatic cards used to invite participants in Netflix's Squid Game.Relief

A series of three simple geometric shapes—a circle, triangle and square—printed on a nondescript business card is an invitation, as fans of Netflix’s ultra-violent mega-hit Squid Game now know. And the results of RSVP-ing to this cryptic offer vary wildly. 

If handed a similar-looking piece of paper as the 456 players in the streaming service’s thriller, the most-watched show in its history, would you opt in?

People are finding out for themselves in New York and Miami, where an app advertised on the back of 10,000 such cards distributed around high-traffic areas. There’s no phone number to call, as on Squid Game, and no nightmarish fight to the death involving tug of war and hopscotch. 

But interestingly enough, the goal of both the South Korean series and the Relief app seem to be the same—to dig cash-strapped people out of their crushing debt.

Relief, a startup from serial entrepreneur Jason Saltzman, is piggybacking on the Squid Game phenomenon for its first significant marketing push. The app aims to tackle the massive problem of credit card debt in America, which has recently climbed to a record high of $930 billion, according to the brand, with millennials and Gen Z having the highest delinquency rates.

Job losses during the Covid-19 pandemic, estimated at some 22 million, have made the financial reality even more dire.

We thought if we could strike with something quick enough and relevant to the situation, we could create a surprising brand interaction and start the conversation around debt.

—Stephen Flynn, creative director, Wunder

Wunder, an independent Canadian agency working with Relief, wanted to ride the coattails of the most buzz worthy television show in recent memory and take advantage of the Squid Game plot where down-on-their-luck contestants play twisted versions of children’s games to win a giant pot of money. (Spoiler: There will be blood.)

It seemed like a perfect fit for a nascent digital service that’s just getting started, according to Stephen Flynn, creative director at Wunder.

“We thought if we could strike with something quick enough and relevant to the situation, we could create a surprising brand interaction and start the conversation around debt,” Flynn told Adweek.

The flip side of the cards carry this cheeky message: “There’s a better way to get out of debt.”

So far, there’s been no blowback from Netflix or the show’s producers, he said, because Wunder was careful not to use any protected intellectual property.

“By using a craft stock and a similar look we were able to make something immediately recognizable without actually saying Squid Game anywhere on the card,” Flynn said. “But for those who know, they know. And for the four people who don’t, we’ll settle for them just reading a card with a very straightforward message about debt solution.”

Relief, which landed a $2 million funding round this summer, will consider expanding the promo to other cities if Squid Game remains a trending topic.

“There are already talks about a second season and a ton of theories as to what that would look like,” he said. “So who knows, it could be here to stay.”

Targeted at the one in three Americans behind on their credit card bills, Relief uses AI and collective bargaining to reduce existing balances and help people pull themselves out of debt. 

“For most of us, if we slip up just once we’ll be playing catch up with our bills forever,” Flynn said. “That means no credit, no loans, no breathing room.”

The free service doesn’t “believe in judging people for their financial past,” Flynn said, but instead helps “navigate through those financial hurdles in the simplest manner.”

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