Two major financial service companies - one best known for its online brokerage services and the other perceived as primarily an insurance company - introduced television advertising campaigns in the beginning of September to change their images to full-service financial service companies. Charles Schwab of San Francisco and MassMutual Financial Group's new TV ad campaigns are meant to inspire investors' confidence in their expertise as investment-management firms.
Schwab has felt under particular pressure to find a new identity for itself as brokerage and mutual fund firms increasingly offer online accounts, something that only Charles Schwab of San Francisco used to offer.
"Branding is a constant thing," said Peter DeLuca, vice president of advertising at Schwab. "With the increasing battle going on in the financial services category, you have to stand for something."
"We are no longer just competing against brokerage firms," said Len Short, Schwab's executive vice president for advertising and brand management. "Now, we are competing against all financial services."
What Schwab wants to stand for is a company that creates smarter investors who can understand, and even enjoy, the language of investing, DeLuca said. The tag line for each commercial is, "Creating a world of smarter investors."
"The overall campaign is a corporate branding campaign for the company," said DeLuca. "It doesn't focus on any one specific area," be it mutual funds or brokerage services, he said.
The four 30-second commercials that Schwab is now airing during tennis, golf and football games star sports personalities in humorous situations. One commercial has U.S. tennis pro Mary Joe Fernandez trying to understand Russian tennis pro Anna Kournikova. The twist is that Kournikova is not speaking Russian but about investments.
In another spot, Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe, who is known for taunting other players on the field, shouts, "Your mother pays full commission. You can't even spell Dow Jones."
BBDO New York, which created the spots for Schwab, plans to use a variety of other personalities, including musicians and actors. The agency started the campaign with athletes since the spots are airing around athletic events and Schwab has allotted a large proportion of its advertising budget to NFL football, tennis and the U.S. ski team, DeLuca said.
Schwab wants to be perceived as "approachable and . . . friendly, and the use of celebrities is a short cut to get to [that]," DeLuca said.
Schwab is augmenting these TV spots with print ads that simply use the tagline. These ads are appearing in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Fortune.
DeLuca said the firm is spending several million dollars on the advertising campaign and is committed to continuing it in 2000. He declined to disclose exact figures.
Like Schwab, MassMutual Financial Group of Springfield, Mass., has launched a television advertising campaign to broaden the public's perception of its offerings. MassMutual would like investors to think of it as more than a life insurance company.
"The objective is to broaden awareness of the MassMutual name and increase awareness of us as providing a wide range of financial services and being a well-established, nearly 150-year-old company," said Eustis Walcott, senior vice president.
Bozell Worldwide, MassMutual's ad agency for the past 20 years, has created five spots starring John Mahoney, who plays the father on the TV show "Frasier." The spots show Mahoney in various locations - a shoe shine stand, a golf course, an airport and a hot dog stand - telling passersby he does not worry about his money because it is invested at MassMutual.
Like Schwab's spots, they are designed to radiate confidence in the company's brand name, feature a celebrity and use humor. These are the most lighthearted ads MassMutual has ever run, Walcott said.
Also like Schwab, MassMutual began its campaign in the first week of September and is running its spots around sporting events. MassMutual's commercials are airing during USA cable network's and CBS-TV's coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. They will also air during NBC-TV broadcasts of the Ryder cup golf tournament and during NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
MassMutual has committed $7 million to the campaign through 1999 and will probably stay with the theme through 2002, Walcott said. He declined to disclose MassMutual's total advertising budget for 2000.
Early next year, MassMutual hopes to develop complementary print advertisements to support the campaign and run them in Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times Magazine, Walcott said. MassMutual is currently running a previous print campaign in those publications whose theme is, "We help you keep your promises," Walcott said.