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Ariel Funds Look to Conquer Chicago

Asked what her firm's plans are for the future, Merrillyn Kosier, the new senior vice president and director of mutual fund marketing for Ariel Capital Management says, in effect, "today Chicago, tomorrow the country."

In January, the Chicago-based firm will launch a direct mail campaign for local investors. It will be linked to an advertising effort in investment magazines, regional publications and at cultural events.

"We want to own Chicago," Kosier said. "We're going to put a lot of effort into our own backyard if you will. Once successful there on a direct retail basis, we'll give the campaign legs and we'll go into other regions, other areas."

Initially, the firm considered holding a fall campaign, but executives thought that November and December would be "very noisy" with Y2K issues, Kosier said. To avoid competing with the "noise," the company decided to begin its campaign in January.

In addition to the regional focus, Ariel is hoping to expand its outreach to the African-American community, a high priority goal of the firm. Ariel's founder, John W. Rogers Jr., and Eric T. McKissack, the firm's co-chief investment officer, are African-Americans.

The small-to-mid cap value firm, which had $3.3 billion in assets under management as of June 30, was founded by Rogers in 1983. It has three retail offerings -- the small-cap Ariel Fund, mid-cap Ariel Appreciation, and Ariel Premier Bond Fund. But the firm is primarily known for its institutional accounts, which include Ford Motor Company, AT&T, United Airlines and Major League Baseball, Kosier said.

Her role will be to establish Ariel as a bigger name in the retail market. The 39-year-old Kosier is no stranger to strengthening distribution channels. At her previous job at the Acorn Family of Funds of Chicago, she was senior vice president of marketing and shareholder servicing, and her duties included developing the 401(k) market as well as product development, press relations and board relations.

The message of Ariel's direct mail and advertising campaign will be to encourage people to invest, Kosier said. The tagline is, "The Difference Between Alive and Living."

The print ads will include one that shows a cane, which symbolizes merely being "alive" and a golf club, which connotes "living," according to Kosier. Another ad shows a bus ticket (signifying "alive") versus a first-class plane ticket ("living").

The ads will use the firm's icon, a turtle holding a trophy, which was first used in a firm newsletter in the early 1980s. The logo, adopted in 1992, is an allusion to the Aesop fable of the tortoise beating the hare in a race.

The turtle is used to emphasize what happens to the patient investor, Kosier said.

"We want to emphasize our value approach and certainly the Ariel story, which is slow and steady wins the race,'" she continued. "It's a philosophy we've built this company on for 16 years and we've never changed that message.

"We aren't looking for flash; we aren't looking for things that are inconsistent," Kosier said. "We are really long-term buyers. We're not market timers. We're disciples of the Warren Buffet approach to investing."