Enterprise Group of Funds' new print advertisement is far from a typical mutual fund marketing campaign. In fact, it looks more like a prize a kid would pull from a box of Cracker Jack.
The advertisement's hard, plastic-like page is flat, but thanks to a printing trick and the use of uniquely textured paper, the images appear to be three-dimensional. And, when rotated, the pictures morph from one image to another.
Last month, Enterprise Group of Atlanta, placed the advertisement in Investment News, a publication of Crain's of New York, to promote a new mutual fund. The new product, called the Enterprise Mergers and Acquisitions Fund, invests in companies likely to be acquirers or acquisition targests. The fund is the first of its kind, according to Enterprise.
The advertisement has caused a stir in the trade publishing and fund industries, spurring calls from competitors wanting to know how Enterprise created the unique campaign, and from publications asking Enterprise to run the advertisement in their pages, said Victor Ugolyn, the president, chairman and CEO of Enterprise, who came up with the idea.
"Everybody looks the same and sounds the same in this business," Ugolyn said. "I view this as an opportunity to stand out."
Ugolyn has been known in the industry for extolling the virtues of standing apart from competitors. Last year, during a presentation to a group of fund executives, he said that creative, conspicuous advertising could help small firms appear bigger and more competitive. He calls this "the David and Goliath approach."
With $7.7 billion in assets under management as of March 31 and roughly 30 different investment products, Enterprise is hardly an example of a "David"-sized company. But his company, like smaller ones, does not "have the firepower of a Janus or Fidelity," which have been quite successful in executing novel marketing campaigns, said Ugolyn. Enterprise has a considerably smaller marketing budget than those larger companies, he said.
Enterprise began television advertising only last year and had a combined budget of more than $1 million for television and print ads. Since then, Enterprise has cut back on television advertising because it sees print campaigns as more efficient, he said.
Ugolyn declined to disclose the cost of his company's unusual new advertisement, but he said it was considerably more expensive to produce than conventional print campaigns.
Ugolyn was reading a copy of Ad Age magazine during a shuttle flight from New York to Washington, D.C. when he came across an unusual advertisement for a U.K. television show. Captivated by the 3-D technique it employed, he decided on the spot to emulate the ad.
The timing was near perfect, he said. He discovered the idea just as his company was readying its Enterprise Mergers and Acquisitions Fund, which will be managed by Mario Gabelli of Gabelli Asset Management of Rye, N.Y.
The advertisement, which displays a three-dimensional image of Greek columns from one angle and a picture of Mario Gabelli from another, will also be used for a direct mailer to some broker/dealers. That dual use makes the ad more cost effective, Ugolyn said.
But Harold Evensky, a financial planner who saw the advertisement, said he was not impressed.
"I thought, My God, I'm glad that my clients' money is not paying for that,'" said Evensky, a principal in the firm Evensky, Brown and Katz, of Coral Gables, Fla. "Every penny of that ad is coming out of some client's pocketbook."
Evensky said he plucked the ad from the magazine and added it to a file of unusual mailers he has received from fund companies. Evensky said of all the companies whose lavish promotional materials have attracted his attention, he has never used one of the firms' products.
"In terms of getting attention, it worked," he said. "Getting my attention isn't necessarily positive."
However, Lou Day, founder of Capital Vectors International of New York, which provides marketing and consulting to the financial services industry, said the Enterprise campaign has been effective in cutting through the industry's marketing clutter.
"The fact that they could bring distinction... in what is a very, very crowded, commoditized marketplace is a job well done," he said.
The ad was effective because it combined three key elements - a sound brand name in Gabelli as an asset manager, a unique product in the mergers and acquisition fund, and a unique presentation in the format, Day said. He has seen at least one similar advertisement before, Day said. But, that one lacked the other key elements, he said.
"All it had working for it was the [unique presentation] and that comes off as gimmicky," Day said. Day has done consulting for Enterprise Group, he said.