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Vanguard Thinks Online With Targeted Ads

Vanguard Group plans to spend more on advertising this year as it increases its spending on targeted marketing online. Last Monday, Vanguard announced a multi-channel advertising campaign that encourages investors to "Stop just investing and start Vanguarding."

Sean Hagerty, a principal at Vanguard and its head of retail marketing and communications, said that ads will run in financial publications, mainstream newspapers and online. "This is not that different than places we have run ads in the past, but we have put a heavier emphasis in online," he said. "More than half of our ads will run online."

The company would not disclose how much more it is spending on advertising this year, but Hagerty said the campaign is designed to better communicate how Vanguard is different from its competitors.

"We are trying a new approach [by] taking the company's name and making it into a verb," he said. "Sometimes, it is hard to communicate our ownership structure in this world. We want to be able to explain how we are different."

Unlike its competitors, Vanguard is owned by the shareholders of its funds. With this structure, it is able to offer some of the industry's least expensive products.

Targeted Traction

Analysts said that targeted marketing initiatives are all the rage among financial services companies. Other providers, including two of Vanguard's largest competitors, Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments, are also advertising to niche audiences through specific online websites.

Hagerty said Vanguard is trying to do more targeted marketing to "mid-career accumulators and retirees."

"Our targeted audience is really anyone from their thirties to their sixties," he said. "We are looking for self-motivated investors who are interested in mutual fund investing." Online marketing initiatives are "very trackable," he said.

"Anything that we learn online can help us make offline decisions," he said. "Through these efforts, we can profile the types of clients that want to deal with Vanguard and then use that knowledge to help us make better use of our advertising dollars."

Vanguard, which has $1.36 trillion in assets under management, offers more than 160 funds to U.S. investors and more than 50 additional funds in non-U.S. markets.

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