Throughout the turbulence of the credit crisis, fund companies have repeatedly told customers to continue to have faith, stick to their guns and remain steadfast buy-and-hold investors.
So it may not be surprising that fund companies are heeding their own advice, by sticking with proven messages and spending patterns in their advertising to existing and would-be investors.
Fidelity, ING and Putnam within the past month have all launched updated versions of previous campaigns that have resonated among investors and advisers. A common theme in these fund giants' ads is providing sound direction to investors in straightforward language.
A new print ad, for example, says: "Fidelity delivers free investment help based on your goals, not ours. Imagine that."
Fidelity debuted a new TV advertisement in its "GPS Green Line" campaign on Sept. 19 on Fox Broadcasting. The ad shows the now-ubiquitous Fidelity green line unfurling in front of a Baby Boomer contemplating retirement.
The commercial ran during the New York Jets-New England Patriots NFL game. The Jets, of course, are known colloquially as Gang Green, even though the Patriots are Boston-based Fidelity's "home" team.
"We are continuing with the highly successful 'Green Line' campaign launched in March of 2009," said Fidelity EVP and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Speros. "It articulates the four key benefits investors are looking for: guidance, investment choice, value and exceptional service. The Green Line has proven to be very effective in conveying this as a visual metaphor."
The ad will continue to air on network, cable, online, print and outdoor vehicles. Fidelity is also preparing advertisements for the Apple iPad and continuing to leverage the social media outlets Facebook and Twitter. Fidelity's Facebook page, for example, recently asked investors what they think about economic news.
While Fidelity continues to rely on national ads to reach a broad range of investors, Speros said, the company views "advertising as something of a blunt instrument. Print allows us to burrow in. Online allows us to become even closer, and social media permits us a personal dialogue."
ING's "Do You Know Your Number?" campaign continues this fall with a serious tone. Past commercials, including the humorous "Gazillion" ads that aired during the Winter Olympics, highlighted the importance of figuring out one's retirement number-how much money you would want to save to be able to retire in appropriate comfort-by showing people carrying bright orange retirement numbers as they confidently go about their daily lives.
ING found the ads prompted investors to seek out an ING adviser to ask about their goal-and advisers with existing customers to be more comfortable starting a meaningful dialogue on the subject, said Mark Kirby, head of corporate advertising for ING.
In the new ING ads that debuted Aug. 30 on major broadcast and cable outlets during coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, a man who has figured out his retirement number makes his way through the milestones of his life-his wedding day, the birth of a child, a new home, and then finally interacting with his adult children and grandchildren.
The camera pulls back to reveal that all of these activities took place within the walls of the man's retirement number-indicating that throughout his life, the number has been there right at his every side.
In conjunction with this, ING has augmented its www.ingyournumber.com tool to let people compare their personal finance behavior and retirement savings progress with others like them at www.ingcompareme.com.
"Coming out of the crisis, we realized that consumers were really feeling the need to be more empowered, to have more control over immediate financial concerns," Kirby said.
Because the new advertisement talks about various life stages, ING plans to run it on AARP's website for older investors, as well as the iVillage site for parents coming up on the birth of a child.
The campaign will continue during broadcasting of the Ryder Cup in October and throughout the fall on college football games, as well as on standard financial news websites.
Putnam Investments is continuing with its push for its Putnam Absolute Return suite of funds to financial advisers, primarily in print, online and radio ads, but also on television tickers on CNBC, MarketWatch and Fox. Website outlets include the Dow Jones Digital network of The Wall Street Journal online, MarketWatch.com and SmartMoney.com. Radio spots are airing on National Public Radio and Marketplace Radio in 500 markets during evening drive time.
"We all know there is a record amount of cash on the sidelines, and this will not continue" once inflation becomes a factor, said Mark McKenna, managing director and head of marketing and communications for Putnam.
Besides its ongoing push on social media outlets, including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and its own Internet blogs-absolutereturnblog.com, rothirablog.com and theretirementsavingschallenge.com-Putnam is also preparing ads for mobile devices, including the iPad, and will announce it participation on a new mobile application in the fourth quarter, McKenna said.
Assets in the Putnam Absolute Return Funds have surpassed $2.5 billion, up from $1 billion in April, which is spurring additional advertising efforts, McKenna said.
As a category, advertising by personal investment management companies-mutual funds, brokerages and other investment managers-has edged up 2.3% in the first six months of 2010 to $1.33 billion, from $1.3 billion in the year-ago period, according to market research company Kantar Media. Throughout all of 2009, advertising by the sector declined 11.3% to $2.49 billion.
While 60% is comprised of advertising by brokerage firms, their spending levels have been flat in 2010, said Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research at Kantar. "The segment that has been growing has been the fund companies, most notably Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard," Swallen said.
Fidelity's spending in the first half of 2010 has almost doubled to $178 million, up from $93 million in the first half of 2009, according to Kantar. T. Rowe Price's advertising spending rose 17% to $34 million, up from $29 million, and Vanguard nearly doubled its spending to $35 million, up from $16 million in the first six months of 2009.
Fund companies are stepping up their "emphasis on retirement themes," Swallen said. "As market gyrations have become more extreme, companies are asking investors to take a long-term outlook."