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Wanger Ventures into Print Advertising


Wanger Asset Management of Chicago, adviser to the Acorn Family of Funds, has launched its first-ever print advertising campaign with an ad that began running in the Wall Street Journal April 17. The ads, which play on the them of the fund family's new tag line, "Money Changes Everything" were developed in conjunction with Arian, Lowe & Travis, the Chicago ad agency Wanger hired last fall.

A total of seven ads with similar themes have been developed and are scheduled to run over the next four weeks in the Wall Street Journal. Each ad will include a graph showing how spending may increase over an individual's lifetime as he prospers. In the first ad, the graph is labeled "Things That Depend On You." The chart's vertical axis shows increasing assets (represented by a single, double and triple dollar signs) while the horizontal axis is marked by three life junctures. The first mark, "Your Fish," indicates expenses when one is single. The second mark is "Your Family" and the third is, "The GNP."

The idea was to take a humorous look at how investing has changed people's lives, said Alissa Worley, marketing manager at Wanger.

"Investing isn't just for college or retirement anymore," said Worley. "Over the past five years investing has changed people's lives."

Wanger did not want to simply run fund performance ads, she said.

"People don't even flinch at these [performance ads] anymore," said Worley. So the fund group chose to create ads that graph just what impact investing has had on individuals' lives, she said. The idea is to remind people that they can dream, then bring the reader's attention back to the Acorn Funds, she said.

Another comical ad has a chart entitled "How You Furnish Your Home." It shows furnishings of increasing value from "Dumpsters" to "Department Stores" to "Gifts From Heads of States." A third ad tracks the progressive choices of "Entertainment at Your Kid's Birthday Party" from "Grandma Getting Drunk" to "Puppets" to "Cirque De Soleil." At the bottom of each ad is the new "Money Changes Everything" tag line. The ad also reminds readers that Acorn Funds have existed for 30 years.

"Investors who have profited from Acorn's no-load mutual funds through 30 years of market ups and downs already know this" the ad copy says.

The print ads mark the beginning of a two-pronged advertising plan by Wanger. The firm is currently developing a branding campaign that will be introduced later this year in other print ads, said Worley. The dual initiative is aimed at commanding more attention among mainstream investors, said Worley.

"Wanger has really relied on its funds' performance and press, but that doesn't get the word out as well as with a multi-tiered campaign," she said. "We're one of investing's best kept secrets."

The newest ad campaigns are part of Wanger's initiative to better reach out to its target audience, direct investors. In the third quarter of last year, Wanger finally agreed to have its funds distributed through the major mutual fund supermarkets of Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Waterhouse and E*TRADE. Wanger was late in joining supermarkets because it wanted to make sure they were a good distribution channel for it, said Worley.

Wanger manages a total of $9.7 billion among its five retail Acorn mutual funds as well as several sub-accounts that are included in variable annuities. Wanger also manages two offshore small-cap mutual funds based in Ireland.