CFP Board Launches Controversial Public Awareness Campaign

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Certified financial planners are uniquely qualified to help Americans keep their finances in good stead, says the CFP Board of Standards. So the group just rolled out a glossy $36 million advertising campaign to make them aware of that.

The Washington, D.C.-based group announced the push on Thursday, during a Webinar with reporters and industry participants. The campaign underscores the CFP Board’s mission to make the CFP mark the one recognized standard of excellence for financial planning services.

“Over the years, we’ve done a good job of establishing high standards,” said Charles A. Moran, CFP, the 2011 chair of the CFP Board of Standards. “The value also depends on the public recognizing what the CFP represents, and why they should seek out financial planners who have attained it.”  

The new public awareness campagin was funded by a hefty and controvsial increase in fees that its chairman expected could "double" attrition.

As the CFP Board did consumer research last year, it found that when prospective clients become familiar with what financial planning is and what a CFP professional does, they are more likely to seek out a CFP professional, said Kevin Keller, the chief executive officer of the CFP Board. That is especially true as they try to manage various aspects of their financial lives.

“When all these things were working together, that is when doubt creeps in,” Keller said. “All of this led us to our positioning statement, ‘If you need your whole financial life pulled together, a CFP professional is uniquely qualified to help.”

The Website, will serve as the campaign’s core feature. There, consumers can learn about financial planning and the personalized approach that certified financial planners provide while giving advice. There is also a search function that allows them to find a local CFP professional. Americans 35 to 64 years old, with between $100,000 and $1 million in assets under management, comprise the campaign’s core demographic.

Aside from serving as the campaign’s URL, the phrase “Let’s Make A Plan,” anchors the entire marketing push. It appears throughout print, cable television and Web-based banner ads, and features figures that look like paper cutouts. 

Arnold-DC is the advertising agency behind the campaign, which created the dancing silhouette figures for the iPod television commercials.

The CFP Board wanted to build a campaign that would stand out from the typical grist for financial advertising, which often include loads of copy, talking heads or slice-of-life images, Tom Crowder, the CFP Board’s managing director of business development and marketing.

Two ads comprise the print campaign. In one, an investor is depicted as a marionette puppet, controlled by strings attached to a dollar sign. “You can let your finance pull you in every direction,” the copy reads, “or you can decide to do the pulling for a change.” Another print ad depicts green paper cut out figures lined up, attempting military precision. The copy reads, “If an army of bankers, brokers, accountants, insurance agents and advisors can’t bring your finances together, then perhaps what you need is a general.”

In one television spot, several hands attached to labels for different areas of financial planning—including taxes, estate planning, investments—struggle to control a steering wheel. The vehicle swerves, streaking through blacktop and drawing a dollar sign before coming to a stop.

The CFP board originally announced plans for the marketing campaign last October. Back then, the move sparked outcry from members because it came at a hefty price tag, an 80% increase in dues. A month later, the board approved the increase, even as the group’s leadership braced for a doubled attrition rate.

Although a many CFP professionals have objected to the fee increase, Keller said the idea for the campaign came from the CFP community itself. He said he kept hearing CFP professionals ask for more brand-building activity, and they were willing to pay for it.

The television spots will appear on news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. Lifestyle cable networks such as The History Channel, HGTV and ESPN will also run the spots. The print ads will appear on the front of The Wall Street Journal’s Money & Investing section, SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s, Money and Barron’s. As for the online ads, the CFP Board is targeting sites including LinkedIn,, Bloomberg and Forbes

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