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Quiet Company' About to Pump Up the Volume


The "quiet company" is about to make a little more noise in the financial services market.

Northwestern Mutual, which has touted itself as a subdued firm for decades, has launched a national marketing campaign to induce consumers to "have a quiet conversation" with one of the 7,900 representatives of the Milwaukee-based financial services firm's network. The campaign marks the first time the insurer will have a year-round presence in a variety of upscale markets at various times of the day.

"We have been advertising year-round, but this is really the first time that we've selected a media schedule that speaks to our target audience throughout their day throughout the year," explained Northwestern Director of Brand Management Karen Rondinelli.

In the past, the company's media plan was aimed exclusively at cable television, but this campaign will span the entire media spectrum: print, radio, television and for the first time, online.

"When we took a look at how our target audience actually conducts their day, we realized that there are a significant number of people who are in offices and checking a daily news or financial source online," Rondinelli explained. "What we realized was that we were missing that component. It had been out there for several years, but we hadn't explored it."

The idea is to make sure the company's target audience is exposed to the insurer's message throughout the day, she continued. When they get up in the morning, they're reading The Wall Street Journal. They get in the car and they're listening to the company's commercials on the radio. At the office, they're logging onto a Web site with a Northwestern banner ad. After work, they're at home watching a TV program or reading a magazine with a company ad in it.

Each ad in the campaign follows a story line that now is the time to have a "quiet conversation" with a financial professional in order to take control of one's financial future.

Rondinelli said that the new campaign builds on past efforts to distinguish Northwestern as a financial services company as well as an insurer and to tap into its "wet" equity, or mindshare, as "the quiet company."

"This new advertising is a nice way to tap into that equity and still communicate what our field force does every day, which is having quiet conversations with their targets," she said.

While performing market research for the campaign, the company discovered that consumers were thirsting for financial security. One of the tasks of the new ad offensive is to break through the clutter in the market and make consumers aware that Northwestern offers that kind of service.

"We felt that the quiet conversation expresses the heart and soul of our field reps' [work] every day [to] sit down and build long-term relationships with clients," Rondinelli said.

Although the financial services market is a competitive one, the new campaign "isn't a direct response to any competitive situation," the director of brand management observed.

"We've been looking into this next evolution of our message for the last 18 months, so its development has been independent of our competition out there," she said. "But it is a recognition that we are squarely in the financial services industry, and that we need to find a message that's relevant to consumers."

Rondinelli wouldn't reveal the cost of the campaign, but noted that "we're spending slightly more than we have spent in the past but a fraction of what our competition spends."

The first 30-second spots in the campaign began airing in January on Sunday morning's "big three" news programs: ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation," and NBC's "Meet the Press."

Online, the company will run banner ads on high-profile Web sites such as CBSMarketWatch.com, NewYorkTimes.com and WallStreetJournal.com.

On cable television, spots will run during prime time on an array of news, lifestyle and cultural programming outlets such as Bravo, CNBC, CNN and the Food Network.

Radio commercials will be aired during drive-time on the CBS Radio Network and print ads will appear in national news, finance and lifestyle publications such as Barron's, Time, The New Yorker, Money and Bon Appetit magazine.

The new campaign was created and produced by J. Walter Thompson Chicago, which has had its own long-term relationship with Northwestern for the past 55 years.

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