Old Mutual may have a strong presence in the financial services industry, but ask the average American about the 162-year-old company with $491 billion in assets under management, and they're likely to answer "old what?"

Old Mutual is hoping that after its multimillion dollar, three-year advertising campaign kicks off this Thursday, people who haven't even seen the ads will begin saying "That's so Old Mutual."

"We want to go from a low-flying brand to where the general public knows who we are," said Bruce Parker, head of retail for Old Mutual U.S. "We want Old Mutual to be recognized as a high-quality mutual fund provider."

The TV campaign will kick off Thanksgiving Day with 30-second ads on cable and network channels during top-rated programs, including NBC's coverage of the Thanksgiving Day Parade and NFL games on CBS, FOX and NBC.

In addition to the TV commercials, Old Mutual will also have a large presence on ESPN radio, in various print ads, Web-based ads on social networking sites and search engines and a giant 36-foot digital cube billboard in New York's Times Square. Thirty-second radio spots will air on ESPN during 17 college football bowl games, as well as during the Heisman Awards ceremony. Old Mutual will also sponsor the Kentucky Derby, several Major League Baseball games and the Tavistock Cup golf tournament.

The ads attempt to stand out from those of other mutual fund companies by using non sequiturs in unrelated situations to catch viewers off guard. For example, in one ad, a football coach urges a player to "protect Old Mutual" during the final moments of a game. In another, two chemistry students in a lab agree that they've "just achieved Old Mutual." In a third ad, a mother looks adoringly at her daughter in a wedding dress and emotionally proclaims, "That's so Old Mutual."

"We recognize that people are regularly bombarded by messages from financial services companies, so it was essential that we differentiate Old Mutual U.S.," said Rena Kilgannon, president of the advertising agency Kilgannon, which produced the ads.

Scott Powers, CEO of Old Mutual U.S., agreed that it was time to take a different approach.

"At this point, it is more important for consumers to be aware that Old Mutual U.S. is built on dependability, innovation and protection, rather than to draw attention to specific financial capabilities," Powers said.

The campaign comes on the heels of an intermediary ad campaign Old Mutual kicked off this summer, with print ads appearing in a number of investment and insurance publications, including Investment News, Registered Rep, Financial Advisor, National Underwriter, Senior Market Advisor and sister publication On Wall Street.

In one of the ads, three co-workers are standing and chatting by the office "water cooler," a moss-covered, stone wishing well with a wooden bucket. The caption reads, "Without innovation, we'd be stuck with yesterday's solutions."

Parker said the intermediary campaign was successful, but "we want to spread our net out to a wider range of audiences."

Old Mutual's target audience is financially active Baby Boomers within 10 years of retirement with investable assets of $100,000 to $1 million, he said.

Old Mutual leaders hope the repetition of its brand name among consumers will help the general public differentiate the company from its competitors.

A year from now, Parker said he hopes people will understand what Old Mutual is and associate the company with creativity, fun and innovation. The ads will encourage consumers to visit the website sayoldmutual.com, where they will be able to find more information about the company, financial planning, its products and how to purchase them.

"The thinking is new. The name is Old Mutual," he said, reciting the slogan.

Making Old Mutual a household name will not be easy. Old Mutual continues to be shadowed by competitors Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in the brand recognition arena, according to BusinessWeek's 2006 list of the world's top 100 company brands. Old Mutual doesn't even make the list.

"They are competing against the Franklin Templetons, the Fidelities and the Vanguards," said Philadelphia-based consultant Burton Greenwald, president of B.J. Greenwald Associates.

Greenwald saw the intermediary ads and found them attention-getting, but said he didn't think they were effective in informing consumers about its product.

(c) 2007 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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