An advertisement promoting the GE Financial Network is giving the GE mutual funds highly-prized prime time, national exposure during the Summer Olympics.

The advertisement began running Sept. 23 and is part of a three-ad campaign for the insurance, financial and banking services offered on the website, said Chris Matthews, senior vice president of electronic marketing for the GE Financial Network, a subsidiary of GE Financial Assurance of Stamford, Conn.

The ad includes a montage of young children engaged in a variety of activities. Each child stops what he or she is doing and shouts out the name of a college. The final montage is of two children playing in a park.

"How much does college cost?" one child asks the other.

"I don't know," says the other child. "I think it's free." The ad then displays the GE Financial Network's mutual fund web page and a voice-over informs viewers that GE mutual funds are one way to begin saving for a child's college education.

The ads are directed at 30 to 40-year-old parents who have small children and are beginning to save for their college educations, Matthews said.

The ads represent the first time GE Financial Network has been advertised on television and the campaign is the largest GE Financial Assurance has ever launched, Matthews said.

The first ad began appearing over Labor Day weekend in seven target markets including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore and Kansas City. Throughout the Summer Olympics, the ads will appear nationwide. The ads will continue to appear in the selected markets and will also occasionally appear on national television until Nov. 6, Matthews said.

This is also the first time GE Financial Assurance has marketed it products directly to consumers under the GE Financial Network umbrella, Matthews said. In the past, the firm has largely marketed its products through intermediaries.

The GE Financial Network, introduced earlier this year, is marketed to self-directed investors as an online source of financial, insurance and banking products.

In February, GE Financial Assurance began offering no-load shares of its 21 funds to direct investors on the GE Financial Network. The firm's decision to offer no-load shares of its funds initially raised some concern among intermediaries selling the loaded shares of the funds. (MFMN 8/28/2000) But the firm discussed its marketing plans with its intermediaries and there have not been any complaints about the ad campaign, Matthews said.

"All of the potential issues were raised and were discussed before we launched the campaign," he said.

The ad campaign follows a novel promotion the company launched earlier this summer designed to give the GE Financial Network greater exposure among younger investors, Matthews said. The promotion involved GE personnel placing wallets containing special prizes including t-shirts and $100,000 worth of GE investment products in various locations in 10 major cities. Radio and print ads encouraged consumers to look for clues for when and where the wallets would be dropped on the GE Financial Network.

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