The National Association for Variable Annuities hopes to soon unveil the details of a new consumer-oriented advertising campaign to showcase carriers' new approach to comprehensive financial planning for investors. Mark Mackey, president of the Reston, Va.-based trade group, said the organization is still working out details for the upcoming National Retirement Planning Week.

NAVA has tentatively set the event for the week of Nov. 11, but that date will not be confirmed until the formal presidential proclamation.

NAVA is hoping to recruit a high-profile individual of near-star status, who will be named at the upcoming annual meeting in New York.

"There aren't a lot of people in this country that have as much name and face recognition," said Mackey, adding that he was not willing to reveal further details until the deal was inked. However, he did say the spokesperson will not be former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who spoke at last year's marketing conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

Should NAVA succeed in retaining this spokesperson, the individual is a well-known, highly likable, trustworthy, public figure who portrays a Heartland, middle-America image and who would readily appeal to older generations. In fact, the individual has the same sort of upstanding, empathetic type of character as actor Wilfred Brimley ("Cocoon," Quaker Oats television commercials), currently a spokesman for medical supply company Liberty Mutual. It also does not hurt that the proposed spokesperson is a veteran.

This spokesperson will appear in TV and radio ads that will largely take place during Retirement Planning Week but may extend to the spring. In addition, the spokesperson will appear in public service announcements, pen op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, and be cited in press releases throughout the year.

The campaign will not focus specifically on annuities and their use in retirement planning. Instead, it will address a wide variety of planning needs. "This is really about the financial-planning process; it's process-oriented, not product-oriented," said Mackey.

While, of course, NAVA aims to help consumers, Retirement Planning Week also helps carriers by redirecting them to consider consumers' planning needs. "What this industry has to focus on is the retirement-income planning process and how annuities fit within that. If you can set up a comprehensive financial plan, annuities make sense as part of that plan, but you just can't sell them in a vacuum," Mackey said.

While NAVA has footed the bill so far, the organization is looking at ways to recoup its expenses in order to sponsor more promotions. The organization will also be setting up and operating a consumer-oriented Web site at

The site will feature information on various sources of retirement income, including Social Security, pensions, defined contribution plans, and taxable investments, such as mutual funds and annuities.

"The message is one of empowerment, that there are affirmative steps you can take to take control of your environment," Mackey said.

Other members of the coalition are the American Savings Education Council of Washington, and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards of Denver. NAVA will continue to explore possible allegiances with consumer organizations as well.

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