April 3, 2000
Citizens Funds of Portsmouth, N.H. hopes to garner more attention for its socially-responsible family of no-load mutual funds. So it has stepped up its multimedia advertising efforts and hired a national sales manager to reach out to financial advisors and retirement plans.
Citizens Asset Management manages six socially-responsible mutual funds with a combined $1.7 billion in assets under management. The fund group recently introduced the second phase of a bicoastal advertising initiative. In February, it launched a regional print and radio ad campaign in the New York area. Print ads were scheduled to run locally in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times' Sunday magazine section and 18 other New York-based publications over the next several months. The East Coast campaign follows the fund group's launch last fall of a similar advertising campaign in San Francisco area publications including the West Coast edition of The Wall Street Journal.
The print ads tout some of the Citizens funds' performance while saying the fund group does not only consider performance when choosing companies in which to invest. The ads explain that Citizens Funds analyze not only the fundamentals of companies, but also their corporate citizenship, management practices and product innovation.
In addition to the print ads, Citizens is running a series of quirky 30-second radio ads, written by Rick Cohn, principal at Cohn DeWaltoff in Boston, Citizens' ad agency.
In the commercials, the man who does the voiceover, identified in the commercials as Evan Howard, is the star.
In one ad, Howard says, "I want to talk to you about mutual funds. Now you might ask, Evan, what makes you an authority on mutual funds?' Well...not much actually. I'm not an investment advisor. I'm what they call voice talent. Citizens Funds chose me to do their radio commercials." He then says he has been hired to tell listeners about the deep analysis the Citizens Funds perform in choosing companies for their funds.
In a second radio ad, Howard is again the star. He again humbly admits that he is not an investment advisor but a hired hand, chosen to explain the Citizens Funds' approach to investing. After explaining how Citizens does exhaustive research in selecting companies to invest in, Howard says he is a bit of a novice when it comes to mutual funds.
"You know the more I do these commercials, the smarter I'm becoming about mutual funds," he says. "I hope you are too."
The Citizens ad campaign includes both print and radio to reach more people, said Joe Keefe, executive vice president of marketing at Citizens Funds.
Between 35 percent and 40 percent of Citizen's shareholders are Californians, said Keefe. That is because the fund group, begun in 1982, originally had its headquarters in San Francisco. At that time, the group was known as the Working Assets Funds. But in 1991, the fund group moved its offices to New Hampshire and later changed its name.
Despite a modest ad budget, Citizens decided to project its message beyond its original California home market.
"Because we are small, there is no budget for a national campaign," said Keefe. "So we are building on a regional campaign." Keefe declined to disclose the size of the budget.
To take its message nationally, Citizens Funds, in early March, hired Michael DeFeo as its national sales manager, a new position for the fund group. DeFeo, who most recently was vice president and director of sales for Reserve Management Company in New York, will spearhead efforts to get the funds noticed in both the retirement plan markets and financial planner channel.
For many years, the fund group's growth came from appealing directly to retail investors, Keefe said. But over the past two years, the fund has shifted its marketing efforts towards registered investment advisors, institutional investors and retirement plans.
"The lion's share of our business will be in the institutional market in the next few years," said Keefe.