The Hartford Financial Services Group of Hartford, Conn. is using humor in its latest ad campaign for its mutual funds and estate planning products. The Hartford Group's two new television ads began running in December.

Hartford's mutual fund ad stresses the need for an investor to take a long-term approach to financial planning. The ad opens with a man, appearing to be a business executive, talking about his lack of concern for long-term investing. Suddenly, the man, set afire, jumps off a 20-story building in what appears to be a movie set. The viewer then realizes he has been listening to a stunt man who does only short range planning financially since he is living a very dangerous life.

"This is a get rich quick' society, but serious investors who take the long view will benefit the most," said Edward Morgan, group senior vice president at The Hartford Group, in a statement when the ads were introduced.

The new spots were developed by Arnold Communications of Boston, said Cynthia Michener, a spokesperson with the Hartford Group. The Hartford Group has been working with Arnold Communications for about four years, said Michener. Since last year, The Hartford Group has been injecting humor into its ads.

"Because we got a favorable response from our consumer research, we decided to continue to ... use this strategy with our new spots this year," said Michener.

The campaign costs about $20 million annually, she said.

The Hartford Group conducted focus groups to determine how audiences might respond to the ads, prior to their release, said Morgan.

"Our research shows consumers respond well to the hip, humorous tone of the ads...while boosting our image as a trusted, yet contemporary leader," said Morgan.

The new commercials are running on 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II, some major network college football games and golf tournaments, CNN and CNNfn, and CNBC.

The target market is adults between 35 and 64 with household incomes of $60,000, said Michener.

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