Top 20 fund wholesaler Dreyfus Corp. is putting the finishing touches on its first new national television advertising campaign in six years.

According to company officials, the commercials, which launch March 21, take advantage of proven images and themes, but they've been nuanced to more accurately reflect the current market environment.

Providence, R.I.-based Epiphany Communications handled creative for the campaign, while Psynchronous of Woburn, Mass., is taking care of strategy and account management. A new York-based production unit for Psynchronous, led by director Juan Delcan, handled production of the television spots.

Dreyfus officials declined comment on the cost of the campaign, which includes print elements for national financial publications, or how it compares financially to previous efforts.

"We feel the timing is right, particularly in this environment," said Noreen Ross, an executive vice president with New York-based Dreyfus, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pittsburgh financial services giant Mellon Financial.

"Also, brand is so important to the purchasing process. Although we have one of the strongest brands in the financial services industry, we want to keep the message fresh and relevant," she said.

Like the 54-year-old company's last campaign, which began in 1999 and emphasized, "letting your adviser be your guide," the new effort also highlights the role of the investment advisor. But while the previous ads came during a relatively volatile market and urged investors to be patient, the new batch of commercials talks about investing with strength and the benefits of sound planning.

The lion, a longtime Dreyfus image, will once again be front and center.

"You'll see a change in style," Ross said of the campaign's treatment of Major, a direct descendent of the lion that has appeared since the earliest Dreyfus spots. "It's a little more distinctive. Our last approach was to have the lion in its natural habitat on the African savannah, so we've departed from that a bit."

The first of the three new commercials leverages old footage of the lion exiting the subway, as a sort of nod to Dreyfus' heritage. In another, the lion is directly linked to the financial services industry via a stock ticker that appears at the bottom of the screen. The third spot is a general brand treatment.

The new Dreyfus ads arrive at a time when the mutual fund industry is grappling with pressure to lower fees, meet new regulatory requirements and recapture investor confidence that has wavered in the wake of a market-timing and late-trading scandal.

Ross said the new ads from Dreyfus, which has thus far been untouched by state and federal investigations, wouldn't directly address the scandal. They will, however, take advantage of the opportunity to reiterate the brand's integrity.

"That's the environment and the reality we're dealing with," Ross said of the scandal. "[The ads] are about that environment, but about Dreyfus and our longevity: what's old is new again and being around 50 years is not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing. It's certainly a terrific thing that we haven't been implicated in any of that and it's a good opportunity for the brand, but we don't want to focus on the negative, we want to focus on the positive."

Howard Schneider, president of the Boxford, Mass., asset management consulting firm Practical Perspectives, said the scandal could help differentiate a company like Dreyfus from the competition.

"Prior to the last 18 to 20 months, integrity was a table stake. Now clearly there are firms lacking integrity and companies, like T. Rowe Price and American Century, are beginning to use it as a support point," Schneider said, noting that breadth of performance and uniqueness of method are probably still the key differentiators.

The ads also arrive at a time when Dreyfus, a manager of $158 billion in assets across more than 200 mutual fund portfolios, is trying to regain momentum. Always a venerable name, Morningstar analyst Gareth Lyons noted in a recent report, the company struggled when the market favored growth investing in the late 1990s. It's been rebounding and some of its value-leaning choices have become industry standouts, Lyons said, but overall, its domestic stock offerings are a mixed bag, particularly in large cap. Comparatively, expenses are average, he said.

So, while the new ads are timely in that they highlight Dreyfus' integrity, one industry observer offered, it's ultimately performance that drives a company's reputation in today's industry.

The commercials will appear on a full roster of national cable and network stations and include financial and news programming, as well as some entertainment and general programming.

Although Dreyfus has longstanding sponsorship agreement with the NCAA through its College Hoops at Madison Square Garden, the ads will arrive too late for the closely watched men's basketball tournament. Print versions of the new campaign will appear in The Wall Street Journal, with which Dreyfus has a yearly contract to appear three times weekly, and in other national financial publications.

(c) 2005 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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